Resigning Matters

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 From top: Pat Carey and Justine McCarthy

Last week’s story in the Irish Independent, concerning child sex abuse allegations and the subsequent resignation of former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey as the party’s director of elections, was discussed by the newspaper panel on RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane show yesterday.

The panel included Eoghan O’Neachtain, director of Henaghan Communications and former Government press secretary ; Herve Amoric, of France 24; Justine McCarthy, of The Sunday Times; Noel Whelan, barrister and Irish Times columnist; Michael Colgan, artistic director at Gate Theatre; John O’Brien, former detective chief superintendent and national head of both Interpol and Europol and financial analyst Cormac Lucey.

From their discussion…

Justine McCarthy: “I think this story raises very important and big questions for us as journalists. You know, what should be reported and what shouldn’t. And there are very strong opinion columns in today’s papers. In my own paper, Conor Brady has one and he, of course, is worth reading having been the editor of the Irish Times but also having been the chairman of GSOC. He says this case is about as tentative as can be. He’s making the argument that Pat Carey, as we now know, is the person that the allegation seems to have been made about.”

Marian Finucane: “But we don’t know.”

McCarthy: “No but it seems, because of his resignation, he says he doesn’t know himself. This is now the basis on which the stories are being written, that it is him because of his resignation. He hadn’t been interviewed by the guards, he hadn’t been contacted. But worse, he was never contacted by the Irish Independent, seeking a comment from him before they published this story.”

Finucane: “But they didn’t publish the name. It said it was the minister, a former minister. Actually, I thought at one stage there was a rumour, floating around, that it was a minister from the Midlands, a former minister.”

McCarthy: “There was a mention of the Midlands all right and that, it seemed to indicate the Midlands. But no the name, as the Sunday Business Post says, the name was being circulated amongst politicians and journalists by eight o’clock on Wednesday morning. It was inevitable…”

Finucane: “Yes, but how, who, where, why, what? Do you know what I mean? If he hadn’t been approached, and in his statement he said because people were ringing him for a comment, that it dawned on him that it was he, but that he’s absolutely declaring his innocence and I don’t think the gardaí have approached him.”

McCarthy: “No they haven’t because it seems to be, at the very outset of the process, that the complaint was only recently made. Now it would be natural that the guards would do the investigation of the complaint before they would then, in a case like this, approach the person the allegation has been made about. But I find it extraordinary that whether they were naming the person or not that they did not attempt to contact the person the allegation was made about in order to see was that person prepared to be identified, did that person want to give a response? It’s a basic journalistic exercise and yet his story appeared as the main story on the front of a national paper on Wednesday, I don’t see any justification for it being reported at this stage. And Maeve Lewis, of One In Four, has made the very valid point that this has also potentially caused damage to complainants of sexual abuse because they will look at this and say, ‘well if I go to the guards with my statement, is this going to be on the front page of the Irish Independent next week?’.”

Finucane: “Yeah but I mean we, it is presumed but it is not proven that it came from the gardaí.”

McCarthy: “If you read the reports carefully, it’s quite clear that the information is not coming from the complainant. The expressions used like, ‘it is believed that she first made a statement..’. You know it’s clear the complainant is not talking to them and unfortunately I think this is very typical of a certain media attitude to child sexual abuse stories. It’s almost as if there was a point of fatigue reached and then it turned into a very sensationalist attitude and the consequence of that is that very serious questions about the whole issue are not being addressed. Like how to deal with convicted abusers? How to rehabilitate them into society? These questions are not being dealt with at all because, something which really is quite a voyeuristic, titillating and scurrilous piece of journalism is getting so much exposure.”

Later

Cormac Lucey: “I don’t think papers set out in the public interest, I think they’re commercial entities, under huge pressure, declining coverage and I think that gives rise to the question of whether, given what Noel has said about how this coverage may prevent any prosecution from ever happening whether some tightening up of the law is required…”

Finucane: “In which case, everyone a loser, in which case, everyone a loser…”

Lucey: “Correct. But whether the existing sub judice rules need to be expanded somewhat to protect the possibility of a trial in a story like this, to prevent newspapers…”

Talk over each other

Noel Whelan: “…of not reporting that somebody was the subject of allegations of this type, until such point as they were brought before the District Court and the charges were brought before them.”

McCarthy: “Cormac, you’re a colleague of mine but I’m just, I think that is really unfair that remark you made. Journalists produce newspapers, journalists write stories, journalists become editors and they make the selections and I think to ascribe their motivations as being commercial, making commercial decisions is really unfair.”

Finucane: “But they are under pressure for circulation.”

McCarthy: “To say that to create a public interest motive is in general, in general practice…”

Lucey: “When I get up I do not start, ‘what is in the public interest?’.  I think, what do people want to read? How can I write something that will be insightful…”

McCarthy: “You’re writing about something that is in the news generally. We’re talking about the selection of news stories and public interest is, it is a litmus test that’s used by good journalists and by good editors. That’s why this story is so particularly egregious.”

Lucey: “The law does not need to be changed for good editors and good journalists. The law needs to cover all editors and all journalists. And there’s a real danger, as Noel has described here that neither somebody who has been accused or somebody who has made an accusation will get their day in court and will be able to get some kind of closure.”

McCarthy: “This rebounds on every journalist, whether you work for the Independent group or not because it chips away at our credibility and at what we  do for a living. Now the Irish Independent ran an editorial trying to justify, not just justify the story, but try to make out it was now the victim of what was called, shoot the messenger response, and there is no way that this story was in the public interest.
The motivation for this story was the fact that there was a well-known person involved. It was not about child sexual abuse. There are plenty of stories about child sexual abuse where the system has broken down, where the victims have not had their rights to justice vindicated that could be covered by the paper but they were not sexy stories. And those stories are not being covered and that is one of the biggest, most serious consequences of this kind of journalism.”

Listen back in full here

Previously: ‘Mr Carey Does Not Know If The Allegations Relate To Him’

53 thoughts on “Resigning Matters

    1. classter

      So far as I can see, the Indo did not mention him nor even make him clearly identifiable.

      And yet he reisgned.

      I reckon this story has a fair bit more to run.

      1. Kieran NYC

        But it obviously became an open secret in the media within hours, which would have then spread online and all the resulting innuendo and insinuation would have been an albatross around FF’s neck.

        1. Lilly

          A child could have worked it out. When the story broke, I did a little search on former ministers who had been teachers (I know the story didn’t mention the teaching background but it was highly likely given the facts) – added to that the timeframe and bingo! It didn’t take long to narrow the field.

      2. Lilly

        It’s irrelevant that they didn’t mention him. Once they broke the story, they knew they were setting the cat among the pigeons. It was nasty in the extreme.

        Let’s say the Garda investigation has concluded and its findings sent to the DPP who decides there is insufficient evidence to proceed, the damage has already been done to Pat Carey. That flies in the face of justice.

        Also when the accused is fingered so publicly, it compromises the case which is unfair to everyone involved. The Indo editor is not an idiot (presumably). He should know the basics. Time for him to go.

        1. Cluster

          So they shouldn’t break stories about child abuse until there has been a conviction?

          Nobody expected them to wait that long when there were priests involved.

          1. Lilly

            Where are you getting that Cluster? They shouldn’t break such a story until at minimum someone is charged with a crime. If someone accused you of child sex abuse, would you be ok with it being reported before the Gardai have had a chance to investigate and establish that the accusation has some basis and is not a malicious one? Didn’t think so. Pat Carey is entitled to the same due process as everyone else. What part of that can’t you get?

  1. Hashtag McMór

    Imagine if it were a relative or friend of who was involved in this allegation? Would INM publish the story? And would the Sunday TImes have published it if it were a member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance at the centre of the allegations?

    Of course, such questions can never be asked of the #marian brigade.

  2. Karen

    Has Justine McCarthy read a newspaper recently? The indo, the daily mail, numerous papers are unashamedly creating copy intended to hold adverts together and disseminate their own political agenda. The days of the super slueth journo driven by serving the public interest are LONG gone, there is no home for them in our national media, case in point Gemma O’Doherty fired by the Indo for pursuing important stories and telling a truth that didn’t suit. Justine isn’t living in the same country as the rest of us obviously.

    1. Hashtag McMór

      @karen Justine McCarthy hardly represents journalistic credibility. She works for Rupert Murdoch FFS. But hey, we’re not supposed to mention that here. Interesting how the alleged subject of the investigation into the allegation was thrown to the wolves despite coming out in a brave act in support of the YES Equality campaign, huh? If it were a Labour politician would the same public lynching by way of the media have happened?

      1. Lilly

        Ah come on, she’s a journalist who needs to make a living. You can’t write her off just because she works for Murdoch. Nor do I think FF was the issue. The Indo just seized upon a salacious story and went for it knowing it would shift a few more papers. Rotten decision from a rotten newspaper.

        1. Hashtag McMór

          “Ah come on, she’s a journalist who needs to make a living. ”

          Try getting a real job then.

          1. Mac

            Justine is one of the best journalists in the country. That’s despite Murdoch being on to her every week telling her what to write.

    2. Caroline

      Yeah it’s difficult because so much goes into the mix but of course there is a commercial element, be it looking for a sexy story or making sure you don’t pzz off advertisers. Really there is no point in pretending otherwise.

      1. Karen

        I tend to think Justine McCarthy is a credible journalist and a breed apart from the vast,vast majority of the lazy minded desk jockeys who seem to spend their time copying and pasting stories about Kardashians and seizing on every salacious story while ignoring important ones. However Justine’s kidding herself and not acting in the public interest by pretending the standard of journalism in Ireland hasn’t dropped through the floor in recent years or that commercial interests don’t loom large in every newsroom. Look at Sam Smyth, brilliant Newstalk journalist fired from one of the top political discussion shows in the country for not towing Dennis O’ Briens line. Truth and integrity are no longer the guiding light for journos wanting to keep cushy jobs.

  3. localperson

    Justine McCarthy’s record speaks for itself – go read the stories, read the columns – she takes no prisoners and at least she bothers to consider issues in depth instead of just mouthing off online. If you think Justine McCarthy is compromised because of who she works for then you have obviously never bothered to read a word she says.

    1. Karen

      Fear of damaging FF’s potential in the next election ? I’m sure he got a friendly push in the direction of the door once they heard it might be him.

      1. Charley

        Joan Burton would have thrown it up to Michael Martin next time he asked a question in the Dail . There is the other possibility that the Indo ran the story to damage any prosecution like they did with the Anglo tapes

        1. Lilly

          Good point. All the more reason why they shouldn’t get away with it. If the cops hauled the editor’s ass down to Store Street, he might think twice before perverting the course of justice again.

    2. Kieran NYC

      Because having even the whiff of allegations of that type around someone running FF’s elections would be very damaging.

  4. Karen

    Mind you, a look at the top read stories every day on the Indo would indicate that as a people we have become a nation of utter donkies who are only looking for a quick hit of some salacious tripe rather than any indept analysis or higher truths. Unfortunately it’s hard to find any business willing to try and stay a float by not giving the people what they want and trying to feed them something else instead.

    1. Lilly

      No one reads the Indo for in-depth analysis. The kind of people who read it regularly can just about read.

  5. rotide

    I think the really important thing to note here is that out of 5 panellists only one was a woman

    #wakingthepanelists

    1. Lilly

      She was more incisive than the other four put together. John O’Brien appears to think volume equals authority.

  6. Frilly Keane

    Ah here

    They’re all just ûckers
    Aren’t they

    ‘Cept Marian
    She’s the real Queen of Ireland

    1. Lilly

      If only she weren’t so pro-Israel. You didn’t hear her a few weeks ago totally dismissing Betty Purcell’s account of life on the Palestinian side of the tracks? She was borderline rude.

      1. Frilly Keane

        Didn’t hear it meself so I’m saying nathing

        One thing tho’ Lilly
        You better hope Carey is brought in for a bitta
        ” helping with enquiries ”
        The way you’ve been at it

        As a by the by btw
        A former politician known to me
        Is convinced it isn’t Carey
        And not only that
        That the former Minister isn’t an FF’er

        Look a parachute candidates
        And you’ll find the name I’ve been handed

        1. Lilly

          Interesting… What’s his game then in resigning? All he had to say is, it’s not me. Nah, someone is spinning. No one would allow such an allegation if they could dispense with it simply. Unless he’s truly public-spirited, a borderline saint. That would be wonderful, restore my faith all round :)

          1. FreshFish

            His game is that he has been bandied around town despite the lack of evidence or investigation
            He probably panicked

          2. Lilly

            Dunno Fish, he’s a seasoned politician who has weathered many a storm. A FFer to boot. They are not wilting wallflowers by nature.

          3. Lilly

            Haha, why are men always offering to break me? As Aretha Franklin might have said, ain’t never gonna happen! Bizarre impulse I bring out in the opposite sex all the same…

            Read Fintan O’Toole today if you have any lingering doubt that Carey would have accepted this chalice of his own volition. Someone is spinning Frilly a load of cobblers.

          4. FreshFish

            It was a joke Lil albeit probably not a very funny one considering its sexist overtones

            Anyway – as for reading Fintan O’Toole I accept your good intentions but I’d rather have electrodes attached to my nether regions

        1. Lilly

          Care to elaborate?

          Could Keelin Shanley be the next Marian? Heard her on Sean O’Rourke yesterday quizzing some fella about the Middle East. Even if she spent the weekend cramming, she had an impressive grasp of the facts. If she could loosen up and master the bossy-aunt-who’s-a-bit-of crack persona, she could be just the ticket.

          1. Neilo

            I find Marian’s robust attitude to many issues refreshing. It’s like she has little fear as she gets on in broadcasting years. Plus, espousing even the mildest pro-Israel sentiments in media circles – I’ll have to take your word on this, as I’ve never really sensed it – takes testicular fortitude.

          2. Lilly

            Yes, I like her too generally. She’s a stellar broadcaster although I get the impression she hasn’t had a great team for the last six months, researchers etc. Also she could freshen up the panel. The same person shouldn’t be on more than twice a year, except for reviewers.

          3. FreshFish

            I don’t like her at all

            She is what I would call a superannuated RTE luvvie, paid an indecent amount of money to witter on for a few hours with her buddies. While I’d love to be her her shows are an insult to broadcasting and journalism at this stage and I say this despite her or rather because of her obvious talent. A total waste.

  7. Chris

    Justine McCarthy, ‘Let’s discuss this’. Other journos; ‘No way McCarthy, let’s put our collective heads in the sand, mmmm lovely sand, all warm and cosy and safe’.

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