READING the News Letter this morning, I was surprised to see an article (not online, as usual) in which Sinn Fein MP for West Tyrone Pat Doherty was quoted as saying: “Sinn Fein will not countenance changes to the Agreement.” I was taken aback, as this would have blown apart my analysis the other day, which argued that SF were less likely to die in a ditch over every jot and tittle in the Agreement, whereas the SDLP had simply ruled out any changes at all.
However, the quote from Doherty was incomplete, as it turns out. It actually read: “Sinn Fein will not countenance changes to the Agreement which are aimed at diluting the power sharing and all-Ireland provisions and providing a basis for the return to unionist rule.”
That is an absolutely crucial difference.
Any unionist observer reading that News Letter article could have been forgiven for thinking SF had subtly retreated from its former position, and was now unprepared to see any improvements to the Agreement whatsoever.
Since the media is one space for Sinn Fein and the DUP to have a form of dialogue, the use of language is critical. The qualifiers in the full quote illustrate just how dangerously misleading the News Letter article was.
I’m sure it was unintentional… it looks like a sub-editor has ‘cut from the bottom’ to get the story to fit.