Necessary journalism of the tabloids

Most of polite society in Northern Ireland turns up its collective nose at the tabloid reporting of papers like the Sunday World. However, Brian Wilson writing in the Scotland on Sunday sees the latest campaign against the paper as testimony to its constant focus on the day to day realities of paramilitary life in the largely working class areas of Northern Ireland.

We all want to see peace prevail in Northern Ireland. But there is a danger that a price of declaring peace has been to turn a blind eye to very nasty things that continue to happen. The paramilitary organisations on both sides have long since been political fronts for gangsterism and racketeering. All of that cannot simply be swept under the carpet in the name of peace.

In 1999, the Sunday World offices in Belfast were fire-bombed. The next day, Mo Mowlam visited the scene. She talked to the staff, thanked them for the necessary and courageous work they were doing and subsequently wrote to them individually. It is impossible not to contrast that response with the almost total official silence that has greeted the current campaign against the paper.

Exposure of Northern Ireland’s filthy underbelly does not come without risk. The paper’s Northern editor, Jim Campbell, was shot and wounded. In 2001 one of its reporters, Martin O’Hagan, was murdered in Lurgan by the Loyalist Volunteer Force as he walked home from the pub. Not many journalists in “this country” work under these shadows.