RTE in grip of peace process consensus?

Finucane’s abduction prompts Eoghan Harris to question why RTE chose to drop any mention of the matter during the week, and focus instead on the apparent escape of the Colombia Three.

Harris, who might share Anthony McIntyre’s self description as a hostile witness when it comes to Sinn Fein, nevertheless raises some important questions about the nature of the national media, and how editorial decisions are arrived at:

How did RTE reach these two editorial conclusions: to play down the Oireachtas debate and to play up the Colombia Three? How was this done with no dissenting voices? Because if there were no dissenting voices to these two decisions, we must assume that RTE is no longer living in the same society as the rest of us.

He believes that RTE is captured by what he terms a “peace at any price canteen culture”, that has led several of its journalists into ‘delusions of grandeur”.

The money quote:

In that scenario, anyone who is sceptical of Sinn Fein-IRA’s bona fides can be depicted as either an enemy of peace, a blueshirt, a right-wing member of the PDs, or worst of all, a reader of the Sunday Independent.

Although he wasn’t entirely dismissive of broadcasters news values. He quoted several instances over the last week with evident warm approval:

Questions & Answers was a stunning programme – the product of a perfectly balanced panel. Eamon O Cuiv, showing the same steel as his grandfather, flatly told Mitchel McLaughlin – who was at his best too – that there could be no fudging on crime and the IRA. Later, on Five Seven Live, Olivia O’Leary laid bare the brutal truth that for Gerry Adams sovereignty lies not with the Irish Republic but with the IRA’s Army Council.

  • Henry94

    When Eoughan Harris and the Workers party were running the current affairs department in RTE, that station was like the Sunday Independent is today. It could not be trusted on the facts.

    That is above all else the probllem for the Sindo. Why RTE choose to lead with a current story rather than a 14 year old one should be fairly obvious.

    But what should cheer up republicans is that Harris clearly understands that the Colombia story is not hurting Sinn Fein. If Harris thought so he would be insisting that RTE and the Sindo lead with it. So the old Machevillian has undermined the claims in the rest of the Sindo that Colombia is bad for Sinn Fein.

    He was right about Q&A. It was the best I’ve ever seen and Mitchel McLaughlin was outstanding.

  • armaghman

    The Sindo tell everyone how rubbish RTÉ is and by implication how wonderful they are on average once a fortnight. It is hardly original journalism

  • willowfield

    Henry94 doesn’t like the Irish Independent.

  • George

    Willowfield,
    I know of a few Irish journalists who refused the chance to work for the Sunday Independent because of its lack of factual accuracy.

    Henry94 is correct on this point, in my view.

  • George

    The Irish Independent is different from the Sunday Independent by the way Willowfield.

  • Jimmy Sands

    One of the great nationalist myths is the one about how RTE was run by communists in the 1970s. I can’t say I noticed but I suppose that shows how effective the brainwashing was.

    I agree that Q&A is indispensible viewing, even if only for the look of horror on McLaughlin’s face when it is suggested that Adams may have given a different account of the negotiations to the one he had obviously so carefully rehearsed.

  • carlosblancos

    I didn’t see Q&A but my bet is that McLaughlin is more than likely the next leader of SF. His lack of IRA history, sharp mind, and natural public speaking skills make him perfect for it.

    Colomobia 3 isn’t hurting SF for now. But if Connolly and the 2 amigos turn up in Ireland it could be big trouble. A wary FF/PD government are will divert any flack they take as far as possible. And if they boys in blue act on any Interpol warrant SF will have to tread very carefully.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    On the topic of RTE northern nationalists were not concerned about communists running the place merely the involvement of a highly partisan clique connected to the Official IRA/Workers Party.
    Under the influence of that clique the reporting on the ‘troubles’ was to be done in a certain way, to the detriment of northern nationalists.
    The Officials took their feuding with the IRA into the home of the national broadcaster ans poison ed the atmosphere throughout the place.

    Harris was in the vanguard of that clique and has on occasions readily admitted the role he played in news management in his time at RTE.

    The vitriol aimed in the direction of RTE is simply because the influence Harris et al had has now vanished, hopefully never to return. It is always a pleasure to see other journalists chatting about Harris, the smiles (or is that sniggers) shows the contempt he is held in by his peers (outside the O Reilly stable).

  • willowfield

    Under the influence of that clique the reporting on the ‘troubles’ was to be done in a certain way, to the detriment of northern nationalists.

    You mean they condemned heinous Provo atrocities? You mean to the detriment of northern pro-violence nationalists?

  • barnshee

    ” McLaughlin is more than likely the next leader of SF. His lack of IRA history, sharp mind, and natural public speaking skills make him perfect for it. “

    ye gods what next the Rev Ian an orator ?? a stumble bum from derry who whines and ah ums natural speaking skills?? no another 11+ failure who can`t get a job

  • Henry94

    willowfield

    You mean they condemned heinous Provo atrocities? You mean to the detriment of northern pro-violence nationalists?

    An editorial line is one thing. Getting the facts wrong is quite another.

    Mary McAleese had this to say about working for RTE at the time

    “I was a Northern voice and I spent a lot of time there. Every weekend I was with friends and relations trying to find out what was happening in the North, but I was not listened to. Whenever I tried to explain that more and more people were being drawn into the H-Block cause because of the failure of the British government to act, they wouldn’t listen to me because they felt that anyone who was bringing that message into the programme had to be a Provo supporter.”

  • willowfield

    Well, Henry94, you’ve been told before that the Provo campaign was counter-productive.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Correct Henry it was only at Mc Aleeses insistence that RTE sent a crew to cover the election of Bobby Sands in Fermanagh & Sth Tyrone, such was the grasp of affairs in RTE at the time.
    Without that, RTE viewers wouldn’t have had the sour pussed face of the returning officer for posterity. I wonder what ever happened to him, looked like a dodgy character to me.

  • Jimmy Sands

    So the evidence of Marxist control was the failure to stress the positive side of the provos campaign? I’m a little confused as to how a God Fearing Catholic Nationist managed to make such editorial decisions in an organisation dominated by atheist communism. Perhaps they were on holiday in Moscow at the time?

  • Henry94

    Jimmy

    The influence of the Workers party in RTE at that time is not a matter of dispute. Harris boasts about it and rages about the fact that RTE no longer follows his agenda.

    Their influence is not really the issue. The issue is that under their influence RTE lost credibility because it could not be trusted to report the facts. The Sindo today has the same problem for the same reason.

    “In 1992, the Irish Times’ Moscow correspondent, Seamus Martin, was rooting around the official archives of the Soviet Communist Party when he made an interesting find.

    Martin discovered two letters on Workers Party (WP) headed notepaper, addressed to the international department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

    The letters were dated July and September 1986, and were apparently signed by the general secretary of the Workers Party, Sean Garland.

    The September letter sought a grant of GBP1 million from the CPSU and referred to WP fundraising through “special activities”. The party later claimed that this letter was a fabrication, but never denied the authenticity of the earlier letter.

    That letter, sent on July 1 1986, was a request by Garland to the CPSU to meet Gerry Gregg – then on leave from his job as an RTE television producer – who had recently formed his own TV production company, Iskra Productions. (Iskra was the name of the Bolshevik newsletter in 1917.) Iskra, wrote Garland, was interested in producing films on Soviet life.

    Garland explained that the Workers Party in Ireland had devoted a lot of time and money to combating the “capitalist media” and to educating “the working class”.

    “As part of this struggle,” he continued, “some members of the Workers Party recently formed Iskra Productions. Iskra productions functions in an environment hostile to a Marxist analysis of many of the problems confronting western society.

    “However, Iskra Productions also recognises that, within the western media there is a commercial appetite for ‘stories’ which, paradoxically, may embody a critique of the dominant ideology or power structure of western society.”

    Garland described the company as “a Marxist film-making enterprise which commands this party’s full support. Iskra is potentially a useful propaganda device for the socialist cause, for a small party like ours it promises much by way of building up the intellectual, ideological and financial resources of our party.”

    Garland said Iskra’s “very talented team” included Gregg, his fellow TV producer Eoghan Harris, and radio producer John Caden. All three were longtime and vocal Workers Party supporters in RTE.

    Gregg was a paid-up member of the party who would later later go on to make its political broadcasts at election time.”

  • Henry94

    The above is taken from a Sunday Business Post profile of Gerry Gregg.

  • Henry94

    Take posting on Slugger as an analogy. We can disageee on almost every subject and in general discussions are hard but fair. However if a poster distorts misrepresents or is just plain wrong on a serious matter of fact there is a price to be paid in terms of credibility.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Henry,

    Harris says “Commentators like Vincent Browne continually harp on about the few supporters of the Workers’ Party in RTE who stood up to the Provos.” Is this what you meant by his “boasting”? The rest of your post is largely irrelevant. WP links to Moscow are well rehearsed at this stage and Garland’s reference to working in a “hostile” environment flatly contradicts the point I think you were trying to make. Keep looking under that bed though.

  • Jimmy Sands

    btw, if I were trying to make a point about journalistic credibility, the SBP would not be my first port of call.

  • Henry94

    Jimmy

    Harris says “Commentators like Vincent Browne continually harp on about the few supporters of the Workers’ Party in RTE who stood up to the Provos.”

    There you have it. Section 31 was in force so there were no real Provos to stand up to. RTE wasn’t allowed interview them. What Harris means by Provos in that context is anyone who did not go along with the Workers Party line. People like Mary McAleese who when she ran for President was subject to an vindictive attack by Harris. In fairness he subsequently admitted he got that wrong but his opinion of McAleese was based on his perception that she was a Provo.

    So when it comes to looking under beds I would be no match for Eoghan “goal” Harris.

    if I were trying to make a point about journalistic credibility, the SBP would not be my first port of call.

    Is that because you don’t like their opinions? Or have they been wrong on matters of fact? If it’s the former then you don’t understand this debate. If it’s the latter then give us an example.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Henry,

    You’re obviously a deconstructionist. You tell me what Harris means (although the article itself I think makes it clear, much as you might prefer your own spin on the topic). You resurrect the story of his intemperate remarks in the presidential election campaign, correctly point out that he had the good grace to retract them but yet go on to imply that he is now repeating essentially the same smear against McAleese (who is not mentioned in the article at all). You have a vivid imagination. Which brings us neatly onto the SBP.

    I don’t like their opinions any more than youlike those of the Sindo. It is, after all, a free country. I think the Sindo is rather more honest about it’s line than the SBP. On another thread for example, there is comment on the SBP’s failure to acknowledge its own correpondent’s role in Colombia. Given the apparent use of forged press credentials, I think we’re talking about something rather more substantial than mere opinion.

  • unionist_observer

    “it was only at Mc Aleeses insistence that RTE sent a crew to cover the election of Bobby Sands in Fermanagh & Sth Tyrone, such was the grasp of affairs in RTE at the time.
    Without that, RTE viewers wouldn’t have had the sour pussed face of the returning officer for posterity”

    indeed, imagine being disgusted at a terrorist getting elected on the back of the shinners whipping west Belfast into a frenzy…….what a god awful man he must have been!

    Makes you think, Maggie had the right idea about denying SF/IRA the “oxygen of publicity”

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Maggie had the right idea about denying SF/IRA the “oxygen of publicity”

    You reckon? It resulted in them getting more media coverage than before and Adams sounded better when he had an actor’s voice, so I’m not convinced.

  • unionist_observer

    but when they did get coverage it legitimised them and promoted them from a fringe movement to a political party.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    David Ervine gets loads of coverage, and he never had a fringe movement. He was always bald, I think.

  • Davros

    That was terrible Gonzo – been at the Office party ? 😉

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “indeed, imagine being disgusted at a terrorist getting elected on the back of the shinners whipping west Belfast into a frenzy…….what a god awful man he must have been!”

    Given the goings on at Omagh electoral office, was it really disgust.

  • Davros

    Hate to seem dim pat, but you have mentioned Omagh electoral office several times … what happened ?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pat only got to vote three times.

    ;o)

  • Davros

    Oooooooooooooooh gonzo, naughty 🙂 I’m sure pat is as honest as the day is long 😉 (‘When’s the shortest day?’ I hear someone asking in the background. )

  • Henry94

    Jimmy

    i have no brief for the SBP so if therte is an allegation that they were in any way involved in anything improper I would be very interested in hearing about it.

    Is there such an allegation? You imply that the Colombia Three used forged press credentials that were provided by the SBP. Do you believe this to be true and if so on what basis?

    I certainly concede that if such an allegation had substance it would do for the reputation of the newspaper. It would be a major story too.

    You tell me what Harris means (although the article itself I think makes it clear, much as you might prefer your own spin on the topic)

    He claimed he “took on” the provos in RTE. Given Section 31 that could not mean he interviewed Sinn Fein in a tough way so it could only refer to people working in the Current Affairs department who Harris believed to be Provos.

    That does mean Mary McAleese. In her own words they felt that anyone who was bringing that message into the programme had to be a Provo supporter

    Provo in the context Harris uses it certainly can not mean just members of Sinn Fein or the IRA. It means anyone who didn’t go along with the news distorting agenda of Harris, Gregg and the Workers Party.

  • Jimmy Sands

    The allegation of forged NUJ cards has appeared elsewhere, together with FC’s presence on forged travel documents at a time when he was employed by the SBP. Of course these are merely allegations. They may be untrue or there may be perfectly innocent explanations, but the SBP’s silence on the subject is curious in my view. Would you disagree?

    As for Harris your quotation from McAleese shorn of its context (neither “they” or “that” defined) is meaningless. He gives a concrete example of what he regards as “provo support”, namely the refusal to condemn the murders at Enniskillen. I would concur with that view. I do not believe that the President would have a moment’s hesitation in condemning that atrocity and by suggesting otherwise I believe you do her a disservice as well as Harris.

  • Jimmy Sands

    The allegation of forged NUJ cards has appeared elsewhere, together with FC’s presence on forged travel documents at a time when he was employed by the SBP. Of course these are merely allegations. They may be untrue or there may be perfectly innocent explanations, but the SBP’s silence on the subject is curious in my view. Would you disagree?

    As for Harris your quotation from McAleese shorn of its context (neither “they” or “that” defined) is meaningless. He gives a concrete example of what he regards as “provo support”, namely the refusal to condemn the murders at Enniskillen. I would concur with that view. I do not believe that the President would have a moment’s hesitation in condemning that atrocity and by suggesting otherwise I believe you do her a disservice as well as Harris.

  • Henry94

    Jimmy

    Of course these are merely allegations. They may be untrue or there may be perfectly innocent explanations, but the SBP’s silence on the subject is curious in my view. Would you disagree?

    It depends on who is making the allegations and how serious that source is. You say they appear elsewhere. Where exactly?

    He gives a concrete example of what he regards as “provo support”, namely the refusal to condemn the murders at Enniskillen.

    Harris give his account of a union meeting. I don’t doubt he would consider it a fair account but I would need to see an actual record of the meeting before deciding if his account was reasonable. Was the motion defeated? He desn’t say that. Or was it ruled out for some procedural or other reason.

    This brings us back to the basis of my problem with the Sindo. I don’t trust them on the facts.

    The McAleese quote is taken from a earlier post. her is the context

    Mary McAleese had this to say about working for RTE at the time

    “I was a Northern voice and I spent a lot of time there. Every weekend I was with friends and relations trying to find out what was happening in the North, but I was not listened to. Whenever I tried to explain that more and more people were being drawn into the H-Block cause because of the failure of the British government to act, they wouldn’t listen to me because they felt that anyone who was bringing that message into the programme had to be a Provo supporter.”

    The head of current affairs at the time was Joe Mullholland SFWP member. Harris and Gerry Gregg were also SFWP members.

    This is confirmed in a recent biography of President Mary McAleese (by Ray Mac Manais, Clo lar-Chonnachta). McAleese was an RTE reporter dur ing the IRA hunger strikes. Her biography recounts how the unfortunate Forbes McFaul was roundly denounced as “a fucking Provo”, after he broadcast an objective account of the growth in nationalist support for the hunger strikers.

    Niall Meehan Head of the Journalism & Media faculty in Griffith College, Dublin put it like this

    Thee was a peculiarly RTE alliance between the systems of media control originally devised by the two Joes (McCarthy and Stalin) at work. The conservative leaderships of the Irish political establishment were happy to see the republican viewpoint excluded, even if that meant the eventual if short-lived emergence of the Workers Party. The attempt by the Workers Party to control media coverage of the North was largely successful because it was in tune with a conservative fear of the consequences of permitting exposure of nationalist experience in the North. That conservative attitude continued to affect coverage long after the demise of Section 31 in January 1994 and of Workers Party influence. It was also not confined to RTE.

    It s ironic that Griffith College itself is now the subject of a Sindo blitz and accused of having Sinn Fein sympathies.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I’ve seen the allegations in more than one paper. Sorry to be vague but I can’t remember off the top of my head. I cannot imagine any newspaper faced with that sort of allegation against a member of its staff simply shrugging it off.

    What was or was not said at the meeting is irrelevant. Harris cites it as an indication of what he regards as provo support. You reply with what McAleese believes he regards as provo support. Clearly you prefer this definition of what he believes to his own, but for some reason you regard it as authoritative. As for McAleese’s views on those of her former colleagues she believed to be lacking in nationalist fervour this too has been well rehearsed. She is entitled to her views, but for what it is worth believe it would have been more appropriate to wait until leaving office before bitching against ex-colleagues who may feel constrained from replying in kind given her office. Given that the source for all of this is McAleese herself, yours is an unconventional use of the word “confirmed”.

    Does Meehan have a source for his rather strident (some might say hysterical) rant? He teaches journalism you say? And the Sindo has been critical? In what sense is this “ironic”?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “Pat only got to vote three times.”

    Treading on dangerous ground there Gonzo, given your last outing in that particular constituency.

    Davros your feigned ignorance of the arrest and subsequent charging of the former Chief Executive of the UUP, who was in charge of the Omagh Electoral Office is surprising.
    Always wondered why Willie Thompson and subsequent unionist candidates were never able to get anything like the vote he achieved first time around. Postal and proxies, unionist electoral abuse never seems to change.

  • Davros

    It wasn’t feigned Pat, I was unaware of events. I’ll off a googling.

  • Davros

    Alistair Patterson case ? I can find reports of him being charged and released on bail. Has it come to court?

  • willowfield

    I think Pat “Chico” McLarnon – not a PSF supporter, remember: the fact that his views coincide 100% with PSF is purely coincidental – is trying to imply that Patterson was guilty of electoral fraud, and thereby implicate the Ulster Unionist Party which was Patterson’s future employer.

    In actual fact, he was done for financial fraud.

    The Provos remain the masters of electoral fraud. Although Pat will deny this (he likes to come to their defence, even though he’s not a supporter).

  • aquifer

    The Columbia 3 story also has resonances that are important for the republic. Small nominally catholic nation beset by internal conflict takes strong line on international leftist terrorism. Corrupt Irish government party help trio play get out of jail free card. Superpower insists that terror tourism no longer acceptable. Ireland, base for multinationals in europe as potential exporter of terrorist and revolutionary skills. The celtic tiger depends on adequate internal and external security to enable a complex, externally open, and fragile economy to prosper. Adventuring bandits or even leftist ambassadors are a profound threat to this capitalist consensus.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Yes Davros, Alastair “I hereby declare Bobby Sands….” Patterson. When youi add him to Jim ‘postal vote’ Speers one wonders why the unionists ever went in for gerrymandering.

  • Davros

    I take it you accept that I wasn’t being dishonest when I said I didn’t know about the case ?

  • willowfield

    Note Pat’s dishonesty in implying that Patterson was involved in electoral fraud.

    We know the truth, Pat.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Davros,
    if there is one persons word I would accept on such matters it is your good self.

  • Davros

    Thank you Pat:)

  • willowfield

    Well Pat, we certainly wouldn’t accept yours.