“Better to criminalise rather than politicise.”

Here’s something you might have missed last week.  In an interestingly timed, if much belated, intervention in the Guardian, professor of journalism at City University, self-declared Sinn Féin supporter and, in the late 1980s, a pseudonymous contributor to An Phoblacht, Roy Greenslade channels his inner Thatcher for a call for media [self] censorship when reporting on still violent dissident republican groups.  From the Guardian article

In other words, by referring to “dissidents” – disparate overlapping groups that use IRA or similar in their self-descriptions – media outlets are investing them with an undeserved political raison d’être. The dissident tag imbues them with a spurious legitimacy. It embellishes them with a political veneer.

In fact, their politics – such as they are – are virtually impossible to fathom. I accept that they want a united Ireland, but the route they have chosen to take to secure it – pursuing a war discontinued 20 years ago by the former Provisional IRA – makes no sense whatsoever.

It ignores the political reality of the peace process. It is also undeniable (look at the voting figures) that these groups have no validity in the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the nationalist population, let alone the unionist population, in Northern Ireland.

They have killed people. They have sown discord. And it must be conceded that they have managed to recruit alienated, unemployed youth, often by suggesting that Sinn Féin, in sharing power at Stormont and in having eschewed violence, now represents “the establishment.”

This travesty of the truth has been given force by the way in which these groups have been represented in the media as alternative political entities rather than, echoing Byrne, gangsters.

[Defiantly not “the establishment”! – Ed]  Definitely…  The professor continues, adding a dash of conspiracy theory and a soupçon of party political mopery…

I could take his argument a stage further by suggesting that the references by newspapers and broadcasters to these groups as IRA dissidents or, more usually, “dissident republicans”, has had an insidious consequence.

It has tended to tarnish the standing of, for want of a better phrase, mainstream republicanism. At best, this has been unconscious. At worst, it has been deliberate because Sinn Féin has few friends in the media.

But let’s accept for the purposes of this argument that it has been by accident rather than design and return to the central, substantive point. Media outlets should take a leaf out of the BBC’s book.

I suppose it might make a difference to adopt the BBC formula by renaming these anti-peace groups as “so-called dissidents” or “so-called republicans”. But that would still endow them with an unmerited political dimension. In the circumstances, gangs and gangsters is better. Better to criminalise rather than politicise.

[Aren’t they keeping faith with their republican past? – Ed]  Apparently not.  Of course, as with most conflicts, alternative arguments are available…

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  • Declan Doyle

    Excellent piece by the professor who talks a lot of sense and pinpoints the reality of how the media is pumping air into dissidents whilst they try in vain to destroy Sinn Fein. Thanks for posting this.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    You couldn’t make it up. Or rather the Shinner propagandist ‘George King’ could.

    You only need to remember his piece in response to Máiría Cahill’s disclosures on the inner workings of SF to gage the calibre of the man.

  • Thomas Barber

    Depending on who’s controlling the media one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter and that includes the BBC –


  • Jollyraj

    The Guardian has always suffered a vast moral confusion about such things (How else to explain a liberal stance which supports abortion but opposes the death penalty?).

    Many writers in said journal look sympathetically on the IRA – yet have condemned other groups in foreign countries for carrying out the same sorts of human rights abuses (murder, torture, false imprisonment, rape) that the IRA were repeatedly guilty of. It is, thus, a bit hard to take the Guardian seriously on such matters.

  • Jollyraj

    Glad you’re on board with the correct categorization of the IRA as criminals.

  • Thomas Barber

    I dont think you get my point Jolly I wasn’t talking about the guardian I was talking about the British government and its intelligence agencies, although I do understand in your world only the IRA carried out human rights abuses but for the unbiased and obviously non British its recognised that all parties on both sides involved in the past conflict murdered and tortured. But when it comes to torture and rape of citizens because of their religion its loyalist you should be directing your propaganda at, perhaps you dont remember the Shankill Butchers or the innocent women tortued and dumped in wheeliebins in Sandy Row and I do remember loyalists raping their female victim before murdering her 14 year old disabled son.

    Back to the main point Jolly – http://www.globalresearch.ca/for-britains-media-and-secret-service-mi6-war-propaganda-is-an-art/5542776

  • chrisjones2

    Greenslade is a notorious SF groupie. His attacks on the dissidents and his own profession might have applied just as much in the 1980-s to his beloved SF when he bitterly opposed Government attempts to deny them publicity. However he supports such action now as SF are having problems and losing ground to the dissers and voters to others …and he sees SF as the good former terrorists vs the current ‘bad’ ones

  • AntrimGael

    It really does read as another directive sent out by Connolly House and the Shinner thought police. Oh the irony! Sinn Fein wanting censorship because they don’t like the message or are feeling a bit rattled at the current unease within Nationalism! Surely it is not ‘dissidents’ who have labelled Sinn Fein as part of ‘The Establishment’? If you sit down in your best tuxedo at Windsor Castle with Mrs Saxe-Coburg and all the Royal flunkies you put yourself and your party in that particular box.
    I don’t agree with or support the dissidents but what happens if they carry out another serious incident? Do you pretend it didn’t happen and/or do not put those responsible on the spot? Maybe the main message from Roy and the Shinners is that they maybe don’t want anyone to believe there are those within Irish Republicanism and in the wider Nationalist community who just don’t buy into the Sinn Fein Animal Farm ideology, that McGuinness increasingly looks like Arlene’s butler and who believe the DUP is playing them like a fiddle. .

  • Redstar

    Well put AntrimGael. No one dare say it but we all know SFs junior partner role in administering British rule is a long cry from their conveniently forgotten goal of British withdrawal – indeed it’s hard to imagine them even use that phrase anymore, certainly not by Marty over tea and scones with Mrs Windsor

  • Granni Trixie

    But u would say that, wouldn’t you?

  • Jollyraj

    Poor old Roy – It ain’t easy being Green!

  • Jollyraj

    More good news!

  • Glenn
  • Granni Trixie

    Isn’t that a muppets song? ( sung by a frog?)

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps Saint Roy’s headline should have been “Thatcher was right!” but the Guardian would never print that

  • Declan Doyle


  • SeaanUiNeill

    A little more elucidation for those not getting the allusion:


  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    At around the same time he was moonlighting for ‘Ra News’ he was working for the Sunday Times – a newspaper with an effectively strident anti-IRA editorial line.

    “Professor of Journalism at City University”, eh? I wonder who is brought in to teach the ‘Ethics and Integrity’ module?

  • Granni Trixie

    All things considered I think they both showed generosity when they met.

  • Jollyraj

    Very apt.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Who gave that brain a PhD? What an idiot. Or maybe he just didn’t realise how unpopular his “mainstream Republican” heroes were when they were doing exactly what dissidents are doing now.