Gemma O’Doherty at the Danielle Carroll Summer School 2018 last Saturday
Danielle Carroll Summer School.
A speech delivered by journalist Gemma O’Doherty. Video via the Irish Media Alliance here.
‘How journalism in Ireland Has Allowed Corruption To Thrive’
Thank you to Mick Caul for organising today and inviting me to speak. I’d also like to pay tribute to the family of Danielle Carroll. And to her. Her life had meaning. She has brought us all together here today.
This event is an alternative to the McGill Summer School being held in Donegal this weekend. When the line-up for that event was announced, there was consternation in some circles due to the predominance of men on the panels. As if a group of women were going to be any better.
The real problem with the people chosen to speak was not that they were overwhelmingly male. It is that many of them are associated with the Ireland of the elite.
An Ireland that has looked after the privileged few – politicians, bankers, developers, lawyers, the media and media tycoons – while riding roughshod over the rights of the ordinary citizen especially those on the margins who are too sick, old, young or worn down to help themselves because their basic rights are being taken from them every day by this government.
In recent times, we’ve had a female garda commissioner, a female chief justice, a female attorney general, a female minister for justice. We have a female DPP, a female state pathologist, a female head of GSOC, a female chief state solicitor and a female head of the Policing Authority. And just look at the state of our criminal justice system.
Our real problems are nothing to do with gender or sexual persuasion. It is not about our bodies, but our minds. Our problem is austerity. And I firmly believe everything that is wrong with Ireland today begins and ends with corruption.
Most of my work revolves around exposing corruption in public office, primarily in the police. People often ask me why does Ireland have such a particular problem with corruption.
It’s very simple. There’s a toxic combination of ingredients involved. Ireland has a tiny population and an even tinier elite.
They went to the same schools, golf the same greens, share each others’ secrets. And when those secrets threaten to embarrass them, they have the ability to make them vanish while our neutered media turn the other way.
Add that to a country which is pretty much oblivious to the concepts of transparency and accountability, and you have the conditions in which corruption is able to thrive.
We know that power corrupts and that unbridled power with no checks and balances will always corrupt absolutely. That’s just the way humans are.
If you’re a member of the elite in Ireland, you can make anything disappear. Drink-driving, tax evasion, paedophilia, murder.
Circumstances surrounding the death of our longest and youngest missing person – a six-year-old child called Mary Boyle – were covered up by one phone call from a politician to the local garda station.
In 1985, a priest was bludgeoned to death in a mansion not so far from here. There were senior politicians present at a party in the house on the day of the murder so they, elements within the judiciary and certain gardai came together to make that case disappear. The chief suspect is still walking our streets.
At the other end of the country in Cork, a British man has been framed for the murder of a French woman for the last 22 years because to identify the real killer would completely shatter the reputation of our already tarnished police force.
A retired sports coach alleged to have sexually abused dozens of boys over decades has not yet faced justice. And in one Dublin courtroom, child abusers get suspended sentences with disturbing frequency when they come before a certain judge.
Where is the outrage? You certainly won’t see it on the RTE News or in the headlines of the daily papers.
I’m a pariah within my own profession in Ireland because I blame the media for much of the corruption that has infested Irish public life.
Ibelieve the mainstream media has not only allowed corruption to fester but it is now as corrupt as the power it is supposed to hold to account.
When I became a reporter more than 20 years ago, journalism was a vocation. Its job was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. To speak truth to power. To defend the underdog and the marginalised on the basis that you would help to create a better and fairer society for everyone.
When you challenged a politician about the scandal of the day, you kept at them until you got answers. Your driving ambition and that of your editor was to get a resignation on behalf of the public so that the same scandal might not happen again.
But Irish journalists today, by and large, quiver in the face of power. They are no longer relentless in their pursuit of the truth. They do not demand it.
They behave more like compliant diplomats and spin doctors tiptoeing around government ministers and senior gardai for fear of upsetting them, behaving more like frightened sheep than tenacious defenderso the public interest.
Some of them see themselves as celebrities, especially a cohort in RTÉ, doing endless interviews about their personal lives and how wonderful they are. The reality is that many in the Irish media have become fully signed-up members of the privileged elite.
Time and time again, they let the public down by shielding scandals from view and failing to demand accountability on their behalf when their taxes are being squandered.
They have become lapdogs not watchdogs, too scared to stand up to authority and demand explanations about the controversies of the day. And that is why we have so many.
In recent weeks, the richest politician in the land was found guilty of serious tax offences yet he walked out of court a free man. The public outrage reverberated across social media but in the press and on the state broadcaster, it was promptly knocked off the news agenda, replaced by some distracting stories about the Papal visit or the weather.
Do you wonder why RTÉ is feeding the public so much foreign news and Trump news and Brexit news and weather news and good news on a daily basis?
To distract you from the issues that really matter to your lives. It’s no wonder the head of RTÉ picked up €340,000 last year. Politicians and police say publish and the press comply.
Citizens are feeling the winds of recession blowing again but the media will say anything to convince them it’s all in their minds.
Like the yarn concocted by Gardai and the Irish Times recently that the latest jump in public order offences on our streets is actually down to the mythical ‘recovery‘ in our economy when we all know it is due to the ongoing breakdown in law and order caused by poor policing and the growing sense of hopelessness felt by those on the fringes.
Mortgage arrears are on the up and have seen a recent surge. ‘Don’t worry,’ says the Central Bank. It’s only due to a winter storm.
The media publish this nonsense without raising as much as an eyebrow. It’s classic gaslighting – a way of keeping the masses at bay and thinking they are the stupid ones.
A few months ago, we learned the disturbing allegations that the biggest private media group in the country, INM, had been spying on its staff and therefore its sources. There was a time this would have brought journalists onto the streets.
Those who work for the biggest owner of private media in Ireland, Denis O’Brien, appear to have no issue with the fact that their boss has been the subject of a stream of scandals and has threatened to silence other journalists and politicians.
We have reached and passed peak hypocrisy.
The tragedy for the public is that once the media are bought and paid for, it is the beginning of democracy’s inevitable decline.
Outwardly, Ireland really fancies itself. It likes to portray itself as a great little place with cool pop stars and lycra-clad trendy politicians and everyone having the craic.
You could call it the narcissist of Europe – conceited, full of itself with an insatiable need for ego stroking. Just take a look at the stream of selfies our government ministers churn out every day when they should be working day and night to fix our broken country.
But like all narcissists, inside, Ireland is consumed with shame and a crippling inferiority complex. And so it should be.
Let’s take a look at the Ireland of today in numbers: 16% of the population live below the poverty line. Serious crime jumped by 16% last year. 700,000 people are on hospital waiting lists. 7,000 languish on trolleys.
Sexual assaults are up 15%. And the saddest statistic of all. Almost 4,000 of our children have no place to call home. What sort of a country have we become?
Our beleaguered property market was recently classified as the most volatile in the world.
Barely a decade since the last crash, young teachers, doctors and nurses have no hope of buying their own homes unless they saddle themselves with insane mortgages and odious debt for decades.
Once again, they find themselves heading for the airport on one-way tickets. Families are broken up. The taxpayer who funded their expensive educations ends up the loser again.
And who is pouring fuel on our scorching economy? The media, just as they played a major role in the creating the last bubble.
Desperate for what’s left of plummeting advertising revenues, the property supplements of Irish newspapers with their glossy ads and hyped-up headlines are urging people to buy at ludicrous prices knowing the market is sure to implode again.
Like ‘Groundhog Day'[where a man repeats the same day] the Irish Times raves about tiny cottages in Dublin city with price tags of half a million upwards. Young house buyers desperate to get a roof over their heads are encouraged to grab them while they can.
The editors and journalists responsible for this property porn know that encouraging young people to saddle themselves with such enormous debt is going to have a hugely negative impact on their lives, the housing crisis and the wider economy. But it does not stop them.
Who is going to foot the bill when it all goes badly wrong again as it surely will?
Knowing what we know about the toxic ingredients which created our last recession, which resulted in the loss of our economic sovereignty and inflicted a regime of austerity on the Irish public, it’s arguable that the media is committing treason.
And those reporters who work for these publications but turn a blind eye are just as complicit.
Be in no doubt the Celtic Phoenix is rising from the ashes of the Celtic Tiger and it will be much uglier this time around. Because of the apathy and corruption of our political elite, Ireland has ended up footing the bill of Europe’s last banking crisis to the tune of almost 40%. We make up less than 1% of Europe’s population.
Our national debt costs €20 million a day in interest alone. Our children and grandchildren will be paying that debt back for decades.
Next time around it’s likely to be a lot uglier. Ireland is on the brink of another recession, and today, a cabinet who are more interested in posting their latest vanity pictures on Twitter is in charge.
Time and again, the public witness corruption in organs of the state but they never see anybody losing their jobs or their pensions or going to prison. It’s no wonder they are suffering from Chronic Scandal Fatigue.
When a scandal emerges, Fine Gael’s default position is to kick it off the pitch, set up a review or an inquiry so they can’t be asked questions about it, waste a fortune in public money paying lawyers to run it and hope it will all be forgotten about by the time the next election comes around.
The public see so much of their taxes being squandered on wasteful reviews. They can’t get hospital treatment when they need it and have to rely on private health insurance. Their children can’t afford to buy or rent a home. They don’t have a proper police force to protect them. Their roads and water services are unfit for purpose.
Two political parties have dominated Irish public life for a century and they have left the country in ruins time and again, this time probably worse than it has ever been because we have not seen the spectre of homelessness in our lifetime before.
Why does it always have to be this way with Ireland?
The answer is hard to stomach. The public only have themselves to blame.
Like the deluded spouse who keeps taking their abusive partner back believing things will be different next time, the Irish people have voted these two same political parties back into power over and over.
Parties who have lied to them. Cheated them. Deceived them. Fooled them and squandered their hard-earned taxes.
The public feel helpless and humiliated. They are deeply confused after years of gaslighting by corrupt politicians. They have been so badly treated by those in power, they are ‘trauma bonded’ to their narcissistic abusers.
They have behaved like victims and sheeple for so long, following the herd and voting in people who only had their own best interests at heart. When it all backfires in their faces, they look to the media to express outrage on their behalf but it doesn’t come.
But change is in the air.
It’s slowly dawning on the Irish people that they have been duped by consecutive governments and bureaucrats in Brussels.
They’re starting to realise that the media, RTE in particular, have been treating them like mushrooms for years – keeping them in the dark and feeding them manure.
They’re starting to ask why it is they live in the fifth richest country in the world yet their quality of life is so poor and almost 16% of people live in poverty.
There is no reason why we cannot look after our tiny population and our most vulnerable – the sick, the poor, the old, the young. We have the resources to do so but we have consistently elected politicians who have no vision and are too corrupt and incapable to manage them.
With policies that have utterly failed Ireland, those same politicians have relied on the rest of the world to save us, relying on tax-avoiding multinationals to bring in cheap jobs instead of looking inside and building sustainable indigenous industries.
We are well able to stand on our own two feet as a country if we were given the chance. The Irish have got off their knees before and they can do so again. But this time, they must confront the enemy within. Real change begins with the smallest of steps, and that must start with the media you consume so that the cycle of abuse can be broken for good.
Should you really give money to newspapers that are helping to fuel our housing crisis, ludicrous house prices, evictions and homelessness?
Do you really want to listen to radio stations owned by a man who tries to silence journalists and politicians?
Can you really justify watching a state broadcaster whose bosses and presenters make a killing on your taxes to keep you in the dark?
They are laughing at you.
If you really want to see change in Ireland, you need to stop supporting their advertisers too. Go into any Irish newsagent and see how their shelves are stocked with superficial sexist magazines that are designed to dumb you down, young women in particular.
This is not an accident. Tell your local shop that you won’t be providing your custom any more until they start supporting decent public interest products that are a benefit to society.
The one thing that makes the Irish media so terrified is that they cannot control the message any more. That’s why they hate Facebook and Twitter so much.
In the near future, politicians will be coming to your door looking for your vote.
Don’t fall for the glossy brochures being churned out of government buildings as we speak, funded by you. Hunt down and support new candidates who are talking about corruption and promising to tackle it. If you feel strongly enough about it, run yourself.
Ireland and the Irish are crying out for change. A new way of doing things that ensures we never again make the hideous mistakes of the past. It can be done, but the moment for Action is now.
Previously: Gemma O’Doherty on Broadsheet
Monday: Day For Danielle
Yesterday: The Property Porn Hub