RTÉ and the newspapers go into overdrive to give us all regular updates, including biographies, on the drug dealers operating in Dublin. Do we really need all this information? Does no editor think that rather than glamorising these people, there should be very limited information on their lifestyles, who they are related to and how they live above the law? Taxpayers are more interested in having the resources of the law directed at managing a fair and safe society.
On the day that Dublin buries a second victim of the recent upsurge in gangland violence, we’ll [The Late Late Show on RTÉ 1] get the lowdown from crime correspondent PaulWilliams on who the key players are in this latest feud. We’ll find out what they’re worth, where they’re stashing the cash and how they are controlling the Dublin crime scene from their sunny bolt holes in southern Europe….
Directors of elections for Labour Alan Kelly, for Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes, Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher and Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carty, with RTÉ’s Sharon Ní Bheoláin this morning
Magdalene Hayden, assistant to Senator Katherine Zappone, writes:
The gender disparity in media is glaringly obvious, particularly when you examine the media coverage provided to female politicians on currents affairs programming in Ireland, according to Independent general election candidate for Dublin South West Katherine Zappone. For example, in recent weeks there were no female politicians participating in some of Ireland’s flagship political programmes.
During her recent feminism conference in Tallaght, attended by over 300 people, women from all walks of life shared their experiences and a common thread between them all was a sense of frustration at the imbalance of gender representation in Irish media.
Journalist, broadcaster, and activist Una Mullally made an impassioned call for media organisations to tackle the massive gender disparity endemic in our news and media organisations. She believes that a gender audit is the only realistic way to tackle the lack of representation of women in the media, while also examining the lack of women in positions of power in the industry itself.
Zappone echoes the sentiments of Mullally as someone who has been collaborating with and educating women, helping them achieve their potential for over 30 years. Having helped sow the seeds of many local women’s journeys into higher education via An Cosán, the Jobstown-based education centre, Zappone believes the time for an Independent voice with a passion for equality is now. Katherine champions equal opportunities for women in the workplace, education, health services and public life.
From top: UCD lecturer Julien Mercille, Irish Independent columnist Dan O’Brien and founder of Hibernia Forum Eamon Delaney
And that’s it.
You may recall the publication of the 456-page Banking Inquiry report during the week.
The report contained a chapter entitled The Property Sector, which included a section on Property Valuation which, in turn, contained a sub-section on Property Sector Relationships with the Media.
It was 1½ pages long.
And it concluded uncontroversially:
“Revenue from the property sector was a significant source of income for some media outlets, accounting for as much as 14% or 17% of all revenue for some newspapers. Editors denied that editorial independence was affected by their advertising relationship with the property sector.”
Further to this…
UCD lecturer and dreamboat ‘sheet columnist Dr Julien Mercille; chief economist at the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, Irish Independent columnist and former economics editor at the Irish Times (2010 to 2013) Dan O’Brien; and former diplomat and founder of right-wing think tank Hibernia Forum Eamon Delaney spoke to Sarah Carey on Newstalk this morning’s Talking Points show.
Specifically, they discussed the media’s role in pumping up the boom, promising pillow soft landings and supporting austerity when their analysis proved faulty.
Grab a large tay.
Sarah Carey: “Julien Mercille, I’ll start with you because you laid out quite a coherent case against the media at the banking inquiry. Will you give us the elevator pitch on how it’s our fault?”
Julien Mercille: “Well, it’s against a certain type of media. I mean the case I make is that the media reflects the interests of its owners and that’s very, very easy to understand from other media. We don’t have a problem saying that the UCD student paper reflects the interests of the students, by and large, or a union paper reflects the union interests. It’s kind of obvious. But when we come to corporate media or State-owned media you say well that reflects the interests of the State, the Government or the corporate world, people sometimes say, ‘oh no, you’re a conspiracy theorist’ or something. And again it doesn’t mean that because it reflects the interests and views of the corporate world, it’s wrong. It can be right, it’s just a matter of saying it’s a certain interest and it’s a narrow range of interests that we see in the media. So, in relation to the housing bubble and the banking inquiry, the media was very much supporting the housing bubble.
There were some voices of dissent but we can name them very quickly because there’s probably only one or two people – David McWilliams is the most prominent one but everybody else was saying there either was no problem, there’s going to be a soft landing or what happens often is also they wouldn’t talk about it. So if you don’t talk about a big problem, a big bubble that’s growing and growing, that’s a kind of passive support so sometimes the media works more in that way. People don’t know there’s something important so they keep buying houses. And then there’s a problem and everybody says, ‘oh, we never saw it’. Whereas if you looked just across the sea, The Economist magazine had warned about the bubble in 2003. And not just a vague warning, a very precise warning saying house prices are overvalued by 40% I think and there were many housing bubbles at that time in the world so Ireland was not unique in that respect.”
Sarah Carey: “Are you saying that journalists were consciously bending to the will of what they thought their corporate bosses wanted or was it just something far more subtle in their neglect of the topic?”
Mercille: “Sometimes there were, at the banking inquiry again, we know that property industry called The Irish Times, for example, and said, ‘listen you better have good coverage because, you know, we’re not going to sponsor, we’re not going to advertise with you’, so there were a few explicit threats like that. But mostly I don’t think journalists were, every day, like, ‘ok, I cannot talk about the housing bubble’. I think the media is like any institution. People who work in the media mostly internalise the rules and they come not to think about them so much. It’s such a fast-paced work anyway and you don’t sometimes have the time to think about it. It’s the same thing for any institution, whether it’s the military or academia.”
Carey: “So, Dan O’Brien, the media internalised the problem and therefore were incapable of seeing it clearly?”
Dan O’Brien: “Well, can I come back to the first, the specific issue of the bubble and the property thing and then there’s the broader charge that Julien makes about media organisations doing their corporate owners’ bidding and Julien says that media people do what the corporate and Government interests want. Now I would really suggest to Julien that he get out a bit more because if you talk to politicians, most politicians hate the media, particularly Government politicians. They say that the media doesn’t report their achievements, it only looks at trivial things, it looks at their fights, it tries to catch them out all the time. The notion that the media is supportive of a government, like politicians just would laugh at that proposition. That’s politicians. Corporate, like the amount of times I’ve talked to people in business who believe the media are full of left-wing, anti-business people. They think the media is anti-profit, anti-business.
Again, they would just laugh at the notion that the media is dominated by pro-business cheerleaders. So, you know, different people have different perspectives. Julian, from his perspective, believes that, you know, the media is all dominated and basically just does business and Government’s bidding, I just think that’s fantasy. OK, so let’s move on to the bubble. I have two hats – I have one as an economist, I have one as somebody who contributes to the media. As an economist, I think we’re the people who deserve blame for missing out on the bubble, OK? Journalists are generalists, they can’t be experts on everything, that’s one of the great difficulties of media. If the majority of the economics community either thought there wasn’t a bubble or, as Julian said, didn’t raise it enough and I was guilty of that. I didn’t, I wasn’t living here so, you know, I should have said more in hindsight about the risks and that the failing of the economics profession when the average journalist was looking at what was going on and saying, ‘well look, most economists, who know more about this stuff than I do, say there’s not a problem or the risk is relatively low, well then, what are we going to write everyday. Somebody’s talking about a risk, are we going to put this on the front page everyday? No.’ So I, in my view, there were some failings in the media around the bubble and there are things that could be changed but did the media contribute in any big way to the inflating of the bubble? No. It was the banks, it was the columnists’ intellectual failings…”
Carey: “But what about property journalism specifically? I mean you know like that was, first of all, you had the revenues from property advertising, which were hugely significant. Julien pointed out that both INM and The Irish Times actually bought property websites and then you had the property porn, all those wonderful articles. You know no house ever had a flaw in it, the lovely advertorials, you know…”
O’Brien: “The notion that a journalist ceases, becomes a property editor for a newspaper and then puts aside the normal journalistic rigour and scrutiny and then writes, as you say, only positive stuff – you know, personally, I don’t think that’s the way to go. And, you know, that still happens. I don’t, you know, make decisions on how newspapers are run. Certainly, I don’t think that’s a good thing. But, you know, in terms of papers taking adverts for the sale of houses, now the last time I looked, selling a house was legal. If somebody comes to you and says, ‘I will pay to advertise to sell a product’, why would a company in an industry that’s in big trouble turn away those revenues? There’s nothing wrong with advertising if businesses want to advertise. Now when this issue of whether advertisers influenced editorial content, you know, I’ve read Julien’s work very closely – I don’t see evidence where he’s put that, where there’s definite evidence that advertisers actually influenced editorial content. I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I don’t know. But I certainly haven’t seen any convincing evidence from Julien’s work showing that advertisers influenced editorial content.”
Carey: “So Julien, the problem here is just going back to that issue of confirmation bias in that we’re each seeing, you know, what we think is a bias in the media from a different perspective. So Dan’s question about evidence, you know, how much evidence were you actually able to compile on quantity of articles say not challenging the boom or challenging the boom or whatever?”
Mercille: “Well I have to say, before that, whenever you hear something from Dan O’Brien, you have to remember he has no credibility whatsoever, right? And I’ll tell you why.”
Carey: “Well I…”
Mercille: “I’ll tell you why, very clearly. From 2002, or something, until the bubble burst, he said himself, he didn’t see that. After that, 2008 until today, he was a cheerleader for austerity which doesn’t work – he doesn’t understand that. So 15 years of failure right there. So whenever he says something it has to be taken with a big grain of salt. Now his other, latest accusation – that in my work there’s no influence about advertisers – I don’t know what he’s reading, this is out there in the open. There’s good papers, interviewing journalists, saying, ‘we had pressures from the property sector telling us don’t do this, don’t write that’ and that’s fine.”
Carey: “Have you specific cases of that happening? Like you, do you know specific cases where journalists were explicitly told… now I’m…”
Carey: “I’m very open to the idea of self-censorship and group think but in the case of specific examples…”
Mercille: “Of course there…”
O’Brien: “But so what? What difference…”
Mercille: “Look, she asked me the question, right?”
O’Brien: “Oh, sorry.”
Mercille: “There’s a paper published, I think it’s from DCU [sic], and they’ve interviewed journalists and they said exactly what I just said, ‘the property sector would tell us this and that’. Now the other thing that is important, it’s not, the media doesn’t work in a way that property people call every journalist and editors call every journalist, ‘hey don’t do this, don’t do that’ – people know what they have to do. So when the editors came in the banking inquiry and said, ‘I never felt any pressure from my owners’, I kind of believe them because they share the same values. They wouldn’t be in the position they are, if they didn’t share the same values. Now if the editors were really critical people, who were thinking for themselves and challenging the establishment, they would lose their job right away. So because they are there, of course they don’t feel any pressures from them, they’re as a team. So there’s a truth to that.”
Carey: “Ok, now what about Dan’s point though, that the overwhelming majority of the economics profession didn’t call the bubble. They were, there was a large buy into the idea of the soft landing.”
Mercille: “That’s true.”
Carey: “So, you can’t blame journalists…”
Mercille: “Yes, I can.”
Carey: “When they were being told, all round them. So, fine, you’re quoting one article from The Economist but I think even the IMF, you know, weren’t aware of all the risks. So, you know, what else were journalists to do?”
Mercille: “It’s interesting that I’m sitting here, and every time I go on the media, as the person on the panel who doesn’t like the media and journalists but actually I have much more respect for journalists than sometimes what Dan is saying. He’s saying that journalists just listen to economists and then they just copy what the economists said, it’s not their fault.”
O’Brien: “I never said that.”
Mercille: “You’re a journalist, right?”
Mercille: “The journalist should be robust. Just copying down what the economists? Journalists have to do more and be critical.”
Carey: “But they don’t. That’s the problem.”
Mercille: “Well, yeah, that’s why… I mean I respect the profession a bit more when I say they should. I don’t say they’re journalists, it’s not their fault. No, you have an obligation to research. Of course, the economics profession is also very pro-establishment, so it’s no wonder that they didn’t see the housing bubble. Now Dean Baker, who is one of the best economists in the world, in 2002, wrote a very good paper about the US housing bubble, warned about it very clearly, not vague speculations. Dean Baker writes papers with Paul Krugman, he’s not a backwater economist…”
Carey: “I’ll come to Dan now on that….”
Carey: “So Dan, do you want to respond…”
O’Brien: “Look, I don’t, I don’t feel the need to defend myself. Whatever, but…”
Mercille: “Maybe you can’t defend yourself, Dan. That’s why.”
O’Brien: “I will actually, Julien. I actually worked at The Economist that you talked so glowingly about from 1998 to 2010. Some of the reports that you…”
Mercille: “You should have read the articles then that warned you about the bubble.”
O’Brien: “I was involved in the survey of Ireland, as it happens, that you’ve cited and you don’t quite seem to understand. The bottom line is, I did warn about risks, I came on TV here. I said, in 2006, I said, ‘don’t buy a house unless your income is guaranteed’. I said, ‘there’s a real risk, there’s too much debt’. I didn’t live here, I was asked, I was back and I was asked to go on a Prime Time show, exactly 10 years ago, so I did warn of risks. And, in terms of the post-crisis, I’ve been living here since 2010, I have taken a view that there was a need for fiscal consolidation. The economy is now growing again, it’s recovering. You say austerity doesn’t work, I don’t put it like austerity works, it doesn’t work, we had no choice in terms of bringing our budget back into balance and that was my view. So that’s you know, just, whatever in terms of [inaudible]..”
Carey: “Eamon Delaney, obviously there’s a lot of concern in Ireland around media ownership and cross media ownership. But I’ve often wondered, as well, about cross media employment, you know, where you have journalists, like you and I who are, say, working for Newstalk and maybe writing for the Independent or maybe writing for the Sunday Business Post or writing for the Sunday Times occasionally – that how are journalists supposed to call out each other if they’re worried that the paper that they might be criticising or the broadcasting organisation that they might be criticising might be a future employer that they might need?”
Eamon Delaney: “I think that’s just something to navigate individually. You see, I don’t…”
Carey: “But do people navigate it individually by holding back?”
Delaney: “Like common sense, I think yeah.
Carey: “Define that?”
Delaney: “Well I think that, look, you know, I would be critical of some journalists who’ve written for Independent newspapers, over the years, but I wouldn’t do it in a way that was disloyal to the paper. I mean I’m actually one of those people who believes, you know, if I worked in a restaurant as a waiter, I wouldn’t badmouth the chef. You know? I don’t get this kind of phenomenon that we had a few years ago of a certain Sunday paper attacking the main owner of the paper, the main owner of this radio station as well – I thought it was insane. If I was employing someone, I’d want them to be kind of loyal to the owner and to the general ethos. But I do think, and it does happen, that journalists do disagree greatly even though they work with the same organisation – Patsy McGarry and John Waters used to have great scraps, they were both employed by the Irish Times, I think it’s just something you navigate and it’s a matter of common sense, you know?”
Carey: “Dan what about you? Or sorry, Julien, you want to come in on that…”
Mercille: “I think it’s very interesting what Eamon said. I mean, you’ve said very clearly what I’ve been saying for ever. You said, I’m expecting to be loyal to my owner. I mean this is very, very, very obedient. I mean…”
Delaney: “They’re employing you, I mean…”
Mercille: “It’s very obedient, a real journalist would say, ‘this guy hired me to find out the truth’, whatever it is.”
Delaney: “He can do that as well.”
Mercille: “Well you just said ‘I would be expecting that someone would be loyal to me and I’m always loyal to my owner’. I mean this is very, very revealing. People ask me for examples all the time, that’s it, there’s just one right there…and unconsciously you said it.”
Delaney: “Yeah, and I’ll say it again, I do think one should be loyal to one’s employer.”
Mercille: “Well again, that’s an ethos of journalism in Ireland: we should be loyal to our employer. What is that?”
Delaney: “Julien, you’re one of these people that thinks journalists are paid for by…the media needs…”
Mercille: “What is that? This is the best quote since I got to Ireland. And he repeats it, you know, he’s very proud of it.”
Carey: “Julien, to be fair, maybe to Eamon, I mean in the last four months you’ve written for the Independent, Sunday Business Post…”
Delaney: “Everybody, yeah.”
Carey: “The Daily Mail, yeah, you’re writing for everyone…”
Carey: “So even taking into account the loyalty of the owner, which you did say, my point is that by writing for each one of them, you know, does that mean you can’t criticise each of them for failures?”
Delaney: “But I do, but I’m careful. I don’t, you know, yeah, I’m not gonna…”
Mercille: “So you criticise on the things that are not too important but you remain loyal.”
Delaney: “No I do criticise on things that are important…”
Mercille: “But that’s what you said, you have to remain loyal…”
Delaney: “No I’m loyal, I don’t believe in attacking the owner of the newspaper…”
Mercille: “You don’t believe in attacking the owner of the newspaper?”
Delaney: “Absolutely not.”
Mercille: “Ok, but that’s very obedient, you’ll get a job anywhere in journalism.”
Delaney: “If I was employed as a diplomat I wouldn’t sit down and start writing tracts against the minister…”
Mercille: “A diplomat is also, they’re also parrots, they’re also parrots, they talk for the government and get fired, they get fired if they don’t say the government line. That’s the PR industry.”
Delaney: “I can honestly tell you, on a personal level, I do have strong principles, on many things..”
Mercille: “Loyalty is one…”
Delaney: “Well, no, if I could just finish, there has never been an issue where I was writing for someone or I was avoiding something that I felt, never…”
Mercille: “Because you’ve internalised the principle so much that you don’t even feel the principle of attacking…”
Delaney: “You see this is like, you’re now telling me, this is like psychiatry like, I’m not internalising, you’re gonna tell me that I’m subconsciously self-censoring myself…”
Mercille: “No people can hear it very clearly.”
Delaney: “No, no..”
Carey: “Well Julien, if Eamon is saying that’s he never had a moment where he thought he wanted to criticise someone…”
Delaney: “Or a thing…”
Carey: “…but held back and didn’t out of fear of the consequences, is that what you’re saying, Eamon?”
Delaney: “Yeah, I’ve never, never…now I may have the same views as the owners of papers in that way we differ, you know, duly, we do differ, in the same way as someone say you were happy writing for the Irish government, yeah because I shared most of their views and still do, as a state. But I’ve never been stopped. I have been told I can’t write about something – interestingly one was to do with trade unions in which a paper, let’s not say what it was, was friendly to this particular trade union movement. So there you go that’s censorship from the left and a few other things to do with a few individuals and libel but not on any issues.”
Following on from the publication of the Banking Inquiry report…
The Irish Times has published a video of witnesses who used the word ‘regret’.
The video included clips of Gerry O’Regan, former editor of the Irish Independent, Tim Vaughan, editor of the Irish Examiner, and Ed Mulhall, former head of news and current affairs at RTE.
The report found that property revenue for the Irish Times ranged from €10 million in 2002 to €22 million in 2006 – at its peak, accounting for 17% of the newspaper’s total revenue from all sources. The equivalent figures for the Irish Examiner and Independent News and Media were 7% and 14% respectively.
But what of former managing director of the Irish Times Maeve Donovan and former editor of the Irish Times Geraldine Kennedy – who don’t feature in the video?
“So I tried to have a chat with former Director of the CIA and retired four-star General of the US Army David Petraeus today in Trinity College. Dave was there to pick up an award from the University Philosphical Society (presumably Petraeus has some deep philosophical insights to share about killing millions of people).
“I had hoped to gain entry to the event but as fate would have it, I bumped into him before the event as he was being given a tour of the campus. I managed to garble out a few poorly phrased points/questions (Afghans not Afghanis duh) in defence of the people of the Middle East and beyond, in memory of the people whose deaths this man is responsible for. I didn’t get to say much at all really before I was dragged away (literally) by security who should be thankful I was in an agreeable mood.”
“After being detained for an hour or so, and having pointed out to security and Gardaí that I was merely trying to ask the man some questions, that I maintained a distance from him, and that if I was to be charged with trespassing, surely every tourist there taking a video or photo should be subject to the same charge, they let me go.”
“I was allowed to go without charge on the condition that I delete the video. I did. However, mysteriously, here it is.”
Ciaran Tierney (above) and protests in Eyre Square, Galway last Saturday
Why are we not getting the full picture about the Irish Water protests?
Galway-born journalist Ciaran Tierney was a reporter with the Connacht Tribune for 22 years.
Maybe it’s the circles I move in or some of the events I happen to attend, but I keep hearing people denounce the current state of Irish journalism in the midst of an undercurrent of anger and frustration over recent weeks and months.
You might argue that it’s very unlikely you would hear anything good about the mainstream media or the Government at a protest march against Irish Water on a Saturday afternoon or a meeting about the same issue in a hotel room two nights later.
What surprised me in Eyre Square last Saturday week, though, was how few journalists attended a march which attracted hundreds of protesters on a bitterly cold afternoon. Despite all the demonisation, hundreds marched through the city centre to show their opposition to the Irish Water ‘quango’.
Journalists have lives, and need their free time, but when newsrooms cut up to a third of their staff it’s inevitable they will have fewer reporters on the ground.
Working for one of the country’s largest provincial papers, I always took some pride in how much coverage the Connacht Tribune would give to protest campaigns and groups.
If I attended a demonstration in solidarity with the people of Gaza, a march for women’s rights, for turf-cutters, or against austerity, it was heartening to know that the news editor would be happy to take a few hundred words for the following week’s paper.
If a paper lets a third of its editorial staff go, however, it becomes inevitable that there will be fewer bodies available to give publicity to those whose voices may not otherwise be heard. Throughout the country, many newspapers have let staff go in recent months and years.
During November, as I recovered from surgery, a friend gave me a box set of The Wire, one of the best TV series ever made. The final season of the programme focuses on the city’s newspaper, the Baltimore Sun, and so many issues facing the US journalists a few years ago have since gripped the newspaper industry on this side of the big pond.
How can you cover two courts if one of the two staff court reporters has taken a ‘buyout’ (the US equivalent of a voluntary redundancy)? How can fewer people produce more, which became a mantra for senior management at the Baltimore Sun?
And how can morale remain upbeat if you watch a third of your work-mates leave by the exit door, leaving empty desks and unfilled specialities in their wake?
was lucky enough to be paid to write for a newspaper for over 22 years and I hope to do so again, but in the age of the Internet, social media, and so many cutbacks across the industry it seems that many readers have lost trust in the mainstream media.
This week’s arrest of anti-water charges protesters is a case in point. If people found it objectionable that so many Garda resources were put into arresting a few politicians in dawn raids, then how come their voices were not heard on the national airwaves?
If people see Gardai being heavy-handed with protesters on social media, only for the protesters to be labelled by members of the Government as the “sinister fringe”, then why would people not trust their Facebook feed more than the information they are fed from the national media?
Rightly or wrongly, RTE are seen to ‘massage’ the figures of those attending protests against Irish Water across the country. They highlight abuse by a vocal minority of protesters, but video footage of Gardai being heavy-handed with the same protesters in housing estates (widely circulated on YouTube and Facebook) rarely makes it onto the TV screens.
If the role of a journalist is to keep a check on those who wield power, then no wonder so many people have lost trust in the media. Much of what passes for journalism is little more than pro-Government propaganda.
People know that 2,200 people were needlessly murdered in Gaza last Summer – and yet they only saw anger being expressed at protests and through social media, rather than on our national TV station or in the national papers. Hundreds upon hundreds marching for the people of Palestine was not deemed an important news story.
Over 100,000 marched against water charges last October, but all some Government Ministers and national journalists wanted was a chance to demonise them.
The vocal protests against President Higgins provided perfect ammunition for their ‘spin’ and took all the focus off the ridiculous salaries and bonuses being paid to senior executives at Irish Water.
Readers find it hard to trust journalists if they feel their bosses have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, or a financial interest in installing the water meters in estates throughout the country.
Those who wield power have an interest in stifling protest movements, as Paul Murphy TD (Socialist Party) discovered when he was hauled from his bed at 6.55am on a Monday morning.
Did it really take six Gardai to arrest the diminutive Mr Murphy for a protest which took place three months earlier? It’s not as though he had been in hiding since November, so the Gardai were well aware of where he lived and worked. He can usually be found in the Dail on a weekday.
And how many journalists questioned this use of State resources at a time when our hospitals are overcrowded and there is a homelessness crisis in our major towns and cities?
I spent four hours in a crowded A&E on Wednesday and could not help thinking about how many resources were wasted on arresting and detaining four protesters the previous morning. No wonder people are cynical when we never see six Gardai calling to the house of a disgraced banker, politician, or developer.
Of course there are honourable exceptions in the media. Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times and Gene Kerrigan in the Sunday Independent are never afraid of questioning or challenging the powerful in Irish society.
But many people have told me in recent weeks that too many journalists view Irish society through the same prism as the Government Ministers they write about each day.
They drink with them in the Dail Bar and meet at functions where they rail about the “sinister fringe” who dare to wield placards outside. When Sinn Fein bring a Dail motion in solidarity with the people of Gaza, they are labelled as cynical opportunists.
Meanwhile, frighteningly, if papers like my former employers continue to let staff go there will be fewer journalists around to witness what’s really happening at protests, marches, and campaigns in cities and towns throughout the country.
If the Gardai or RTE underestimate the numbers at protests, who is going to challenge them if there are no ‘neutral’ people available to report the facts on the ground?
When a news editor decides that a five day old video of an idiot hurling abuse at the President should be the main item on the national evening news, where are the voices who can object to such a blatant abuse of power?
And where are the journalists who challenge why anti-austerity protesters are being arrested while corrupt bankers and politicians (who bankrupt Ireland almost five years ago) are still allowed to operate with impunity?
Of course Irish journalism is not dead yet. But this perception that double standards abound (allied to the clear difference between what people see on social and mainstream media) has added to the anger and cynicism across the land.
Archbishop of Armagh, Catholic Primate of All Ireland Eamon Martin
You can keep us out of this.
“Over the past year or so, in my role as chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I have heard a variety of views on the relationship between the Church and the media in Ireland. These views were garnered from professionals working inside and outside of Church structures, and they ranged from the negative to the optimistic.
In my view it is now time for us to build afresh mutual respect and trust between the Church and the media in Ireland, not in any fawning or deferential manner, but in recognition of the fact that we share similar goals – to seek out the truth, to highlight injustice. In many ways we have a common mission – vocation even – to interact with society and the world in order to promote truth, ask hard questions, multiply goodness, enhance beauty and to serve the common good.
I recognise that coverage of the child abuse scandals in the Church has fundamentally shifted our relationship with the media. We are a long way from the 31 December 1961 when my predecessor Cardinal D’Alton broadcast a live message of blessing and goodwill from Armagh to the newly established RTÉ television station. It is true that we in the Church have sometimes reacted defensively or in denial to legitimate criticism in the media – it is also true that some commentators, particularly on social media, seem at times to have lost the ability to objectively question a story, running instead with their consensus caricature of the Church.
Most now accept that “the media” has played a vitally important role in Ireland and around the world, in lifting the lid on a terrible and shameful chapter of our history; giving a voice to those who for years had been carrying a lonely trauma. Media attention of these issues has accelerated the development and implementation of best practice in safeguarding, both in the Church and throughout society.
There is, of course, a legitimate interest in reporting bad as well as good news about the Church. What Radharc [long-running RTÉ Catholic documentary strand] did so well, however, was to present the beautiful, edifying and spiritually-inspiring lives of people of faith in ways which reflected the beauty and goodness of God. I believe that today, when so many people are tempted to despair, we need to rediscover the Radharc vision and lift people up, giving them, as Saint Peter put it, “a reason for the hope that lies within us.” With so much conflict, hatred and division in the world, it would do all our hearts good to witness the commitment of people of faith to peace and justice, to love and understanding.”