Sinn Féin taking rough ride in media

BBC Radio 5 presenter Nicky Campbell did not exactly lead from the moral frontline of journalism this morning when he asked Mitchel McLaughlin whether in the days of the IRA’s offensive campaign Gerry Adams might have been shot as an informer whefor suggesting that people with evidence should give information on the killing of Robert McCartney to the PSNI. Unedifying for journalism certainly. But it may also reflect the party’s dramatic loss of control of the news agenda over the last few months.

Over on RTE, Arthur Morgan took a blistering round of questions (sound file) over his role in previous IRA operations from Vincent Browne last night, contrasting Alex Maskey’s late January threat to leave an earlier edition of the programme to go and iron his shirts instead!

  • Davros

    What do you mean by “moral frontline of journalism” Mick ?

  • Mick Fealty

    It was a scurrilous question intended to grandstand the journalist, embarass the politician, and get zero information for the listener!

  • Davros

    That sounds reasonably normal for a Radio 5 interview Mick. Is it immoral for a journalist to give a politician – any politician , not just Mitchel representing SF, a dose of their usual offering ?

  • Mick Fealty

    I didn’t say it was immoral. I have no time for that kind of moral grandstanding masquerading as journalism!

  • Ringo

    What about all those poor opinion writers? Are they not guilty of the same thing?

  • vespasian

    Mick Fealty

    Are you suggesting that asking questions that highlight the hypocricy and double standards of any party is not the job of the political interviwer?

    I would have though that is their raison d’etre

  • Davros

    Is Journalism, especially political journalism, not based on moral judgement?

  • Peace and Justice

    “Mick Fealty:It was a scurrilous question intended to grandstand the journalist, embarass the politician,and get zero information for the listener!”

    So journalists should go back to the old days and give the Sinn Fein-IRA terrorist group easy questions?!I thought it was a great interview. He asked a straightforward question about how in the past people would be found murdered if they gave evidence to the police. And now we have Gerry Adams passing on the names of Sinn Fein-IRA members to the police.

    And why should we be worried about “embarass[ing] the politician” when he belongs to a party who has butchered so many innocent people?

    Has Mick Fealty’s mask slipped?

  • PaddyCanuck

    In the interest of balance, and I know balance is a virtue which all journalists espouse to, maybe the next time Tony Blair, or Paul Murphy are interviewed they should be asked when they are going to reintroduce shoot to kill policies, and encourage collusion between their security forces and loyalist paramilitaries to defeat the IRA, after all that is what British governments have done in the past when they tried to defeat “Provisionalism”.

    Maybe the PSNI should be asked when they are going to collude with loyalists in the murder of the solicitors representing the murderers of Robert McCartney, and how long will they obstruct in the subsequent investigation into the collusion and coverup of the same? After all thats what thier predecessors did.

    Maybe when paisley is next interviewed he should be asked when he will champion the latest paramilitary group setup to save the union, and put papists in there place? thats what would have happened in the past.

    Bertie, have you had any backhanders lately? Sure Charlie H and Albert were up to there neck in dodgy dealing.

    Compiled any dodgy dossiers lately Tony?

    What if Luxembourg had stockpiles of Chemical, Biological weapons, and were developing a nuclear capabilities would you bomb, invade and occupy them George? You have in the past.

  • aquifer

    I would not worry. Its a poor politician that cannot recover from a googly question, as if they ever answered questions in the first place. SF won’t be long in making their spokespersons unavailable to radio 5 if they don’t like their treatment. Until Adams divests himself of the men in black balaclavas, its a fair question too.

    With all these channels these days, politicians can go where they get a respectful hearing, and listeners can be spared repetitive hypocrites. Isn’t it awkward when freedom of the press means something?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Didn’t hear the interview, but I have long been of the opinion that Nicky Campbell is a charlatan. An angry little ball of arrogance still smarting from the fact that he’s not really taken seriously as a journalist. (But hey, he got his big breakthrough on Wheel of Fortune – what does he expect? As most ex-boyband members trying to go credible in their solo careers will tell you, the devil doesn’t give you your soul back.)

    Anyway. I’m in agreement with Mick here. The point shouldn’t be whether you enjoy seeing a Shinner squirm. Adams has handed names over to the police. (Ombudsman I believe? Does that count?) Either way, it’s a ground-breaking step away from past provo practice. Sinn Fein don’t deserve any medals for it, and it does bring names like Jean McConville to mind.

    But Jesus Christ, Campbell’s question could equally have come from someone urging Adams NOT to hand over the names. In his headlong rush to highlight his own cleverness, Campbell showed why he is not a serious journalist. To Campbell journalism is about self-aggrandisement. In fact, journalism is fundamentally about facilitating public discourse.

  • Jacko

    If journalists are normally guilty of anything when dealing with politicos it’s not asking the awkward questions that point up hypocrisy, changes of attitude and direction etc.
    Why have journalists happily played along with the fiction of Adams and McGuinness telling them for years they have to go to the leadership of the IRA to find things out, instead of just saying, “but you are part of the IRA leadership”?

    I fail to see what Mick is so upset about.
    Is it not legitimate to use such an example to indicate how much things have changed within that strand of republicanism? It isn’t as though the shinner cabal have any qualms about publicly destroying someone when it suits them – reference the civil servant a while back.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m all for ‘hard’ questions. But the illusion that embarrassing = difficult doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Although I’ll grant that it may make for good entertainment. Good journalism needs a steady eye for the searching question, which may also (perhaps incidentally) be embarassing.

    Dunseith’s handling of the Talk Back discussion on Monday between Morrison, O’Rawe and McFarlane was much more adept in getting protagonists to lay out some interestingly solid ground that could well be worth re-visiting. And he didn’t have to be gratuitously rude to get his material.

    Frank Millar is sometimes abrupt in his questioning of Trimble in his book. But he lets his subject talk. How else are we to find out what politicians are thinking? Just read their press releases?

  • aquifer


    I agree that a mediated debate or personal interview can tease out positions and thoughts powerfully, but when the party line gets too schooled and practiced we are none the wiser, especially with a party who may well still be manoevered by a paramilitary conspiracy with a hidden agenda.

  • Jacko

    Dunseith is a master craftsman while Campbell is to good journalism what Eddie the Eagle was to ski-jumping, but that is beside the point.

    It is a fact that if Adams had advocated what he did 10 or 15 years ago, he would probably have been shot. Campbell had every right to raise that point.

  • GavBelfast

    Agree 100% Jacko.

    Campbell and his style wouldn’t be my cup of tea either, and when I heard him put the point, I winced.

    But it was a point worth making, and I am a bit puzzled by the furore here over this.

    While we’re at it, Noel Thompson also irks some people, but he tends to cut to the chase (and the quick sometimes), and our politicians have frankly had it easy, and often their own way, for too long.

  • Davros

    Agreed Jacko and GavBelfast. I have read in several Blanket articles that people were shot after ‘courts-martial’ by the IRA for loss of weapons.

  • Hardy Handshake

    I’m not in any respect a fan of Nicky Campbell but I’ve made the point elsewhere on this site that if, in Repuclican terms, the maiming of joyriders or drug-dealers is an appropriate response to the menace of criminality in nationalist areas, why aren’t these anti-social, to put it mildly, elements in the Short Strand neighbourhood, being expelled from Ireland in crutches also ? And would Adams have a problem with it if they did ?

    Furthermore, if the kneecaappers and expellers were informed on to the PSNI by others, would the informants also be liable to execution also ? What is the SF position on this please ?