From top: RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan; Mary Lou McDonald and Arlene Foster in Derry for the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee; Anthony Sheridan
Falling revenue coupled with a serious challenge from social media has in recent times prompted the establishment media to emphasise how important professional, objective and well researched journalism is to society [See here and here for examples].
Unfortunately, these claims of high quality journalism are more fake news than fact particularly when the establishment media is reporting on those who pose a threat to the interests of the ruling political centre made up of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour.
Sinn Féin represents the greatest threat to this exclusive political club and for that reason is frequently targetted by establishment media.
RTÉ in particular has effectively abandoned all pretence of objectivity when it comes to interviewing Sinn Fein representatives.
A comparison between an RTE interview with DUP leader Arlene Foster and what can only be described as the interrogation of Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald on the day of the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee clearly exposes the blatant bias of the national broadcaster.
Foster was interviewed on Morning Ireland in a carefully choreographed piece that portrayed her and her party, the DUP, in a largely positive light.
First we heard a short 37 second clip of Foster speaking earlier on BBC Radio Ulster in which she expressed her feelings during the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.
RTÉ reporter Tommie Gorman was then invited to respond and proceeded to give a glowing account of how the DUP was ready to engage in talks but [unfortunately] Sinn Fein was adopting a strategy of caution.
Arlene Foster was then respectfully and professionally interviewed by RTÉs Gavin Jennings without interruption or bullying but also without any serious challenge of her views.
She was allowed to promote the view that she and her party were very willing to sit down with Sinn Féin [if only they would cooperate] and sort out any issues they had.
Tommie Gorman was again invited to give his assessment of Foster’s views. He proceeded to give another glowing account of how the DUP was eager to get politics back on track in Northern Ireland and, again, concluded his analysis with a negative description of Sinn Fein’s election strategies North and South of the border.
Later on in the morning, and in stark contrast, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was interrogated, bullied and insulted in a disgraceful display of bias by Miriam O’Callaghan/RTE on Today with Seán O’Rourke.
The interrogation was preceded by yet another clip of Arlene Foster speaking as if her only wish in life was to bring peace and harmony to the whole world.
In the fifteen minute interrogation that followed McDonald was agressively interrupted no less that 31 times. She got to answer just one question without a bullying intervention.
It was clear to any objective listener that O’Callaghan/RTE was not in the least bit interested in McDonald’s views but rather in trapping her into expressing a negative opinon on the question of resolving the political stalemate at Stormont.
It was also clear that O’Callaghan/RTE were not interested in informing listeners that the DUP were responsible for the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly. That it was the DUP who initially accepted but then walked away from a compromise agreement with Sinn Fein in 2018.
In her efforts to trap McDonald, O’Callaghan didn’t bother too much with facts. For example, she claimed that in his sermon Fr. Magill was asking people to compromise when in fact he did no such thing.
McDonald, rightly, upbraied O’Callaghan for putting words into Fr. Magill’s mouth.
The moment of ‘victory’ for O’Callaghan/RTE came when McDonald said that Sinn Fein would not be capitulating to those [DUP] who wish to hold back progress in every form.
Triumphantly, O’Callaghan crowed:
“So am I hearing – ‘Sinn Fein says NO’?”
This was the whole point of the interrogation, to extract a negative soundbite from McDonald that would portray Sinn Fein as the party that was refusing to compromise on talks to restore the Assembly.
But there’s a bigger, more important reason for the constant attacks on Sinn Féin by the establishment media and that is the threat that Sinn Féin, as an outsider, poses to the power of the ruling centre of Irish politics.
For years now, in election after election, this ruling political elite, that has done so much damage to Ireland, has been losing the trust and consequently the votes of Irish citizens.
The weaker the political centre becomes the more strident and more blatant the attacks on all outsiders who pose a threat to its political power.
Over recent years RTÉ has drifted from a position of relative objective journalism to a point where many see the station as nothing more than an obedient mouthpiece for the ruling political class.
I would recommend listening to the O’Callaghan interrogation of McDonald to obtain a true sense of just how biased RTE has become.
Alternatively, take a quick scroll down the reproduced interrogation below which signposts every interruption by O’Callaghan.