Accusations arising out of a fear of Sinn Fein

Daily Ireland columnist Damien Kiberd offers the explanation that “the planting in the media of various bizarre stories designed to de-stabilise Sinn Fein”, is being orchestrated out of a fear that Sinn Fein will permitted to participate in the control of the PSNI and ultimately the final dismantling of Special Branch. He accuses the party’s political opponents of orchestrating a media campaign against it, because they fear the rise and rise of the party.

  • kate

    An interesting view point, however Damien leaves out the £78 odd million it is costing the tax payer to run Stormont.

    The two pronged process of using informers and contacts in the media should not be enough to destabilise SF. They have their own contacts in the media-the ATN and its sister papers and the Daily Ireland and various others.

    They can hardly blame a journalist from what ever media outlet susing out a story of touts and spies. As it has been pointed out time and time again SF have no one to blame for this circus surrounding spies but themselves after the way they handled Scap. With the outing of Donaldson it is not only journalists who are asking who can be trusted within that party.

    There is the valid argument of special branch but its hardly a reason by its self for the outing of names in the media and the subsequent theory that the names are being outed to destabilise SF. The Donaldson affair did that and many in the US and Scotland as well as Ireland are still trying to assess the damage he did.

    All the media spin in the world won’t cover up the fact that they have been badly compromised.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Can anyone explain why SF and Co. are so obsessed with “the meeja”?
    Even the DUP learnt to take it all on the chin years ago.
    A party that owns/controls several newspapers itself really ought to be less sensitive – or have I got that the wrong way round?

  • barnshee

    “Sinn Fein will permitted to participate in the control of the PSNI and ultimately the final dismantling of Special Branch”

    How wrong can you be ande still get paid.

    The prospect of the appearance of SF/IRA to “participate in the control of the PSNI” would signal the end of any unionist party that condoned or supported it any any form.

    These boys are not completely stupid (well maybe not) the one thing they really want to hang on to is their seat so if SF?IRA in policing = lost seat-then no SF/IRA in policing -it really is that simple

  • Observer

    While it may well be the case that Sinn Fein enjoys the editorial support of Daily Ireland, the contention that the paper, in conjunction with the Andersonstown News, acts as a balance to the critical stance adopted by the rest of the media is a little wide of the mark.

    The vast majority of Sunday newspapers on the island take a confrontational approach to the party. The Sunday Independent, the largest selling of them all, has been consistently hostile — likewise with Ireland on Sunday and The Sunday Times.

    The Sunday Business Post, which Kiberd helped found, has moderated its republican line significantly in recent years.

    The dailies routinely carry critical editorials of Sinn Fein e.g. the Irish Independent, the Irish Times, the Belfast Telegraph, the Newsletter and the various British red-tops.

    While Sinn Fein may be a little paranoid in its protestations about ‘the meeja’, there is little doubt that the vast majority of mainstream outlets don’t like the party.

  • Shore Road Resident

    True, but they don’t like the DUP either – and in neither case has it stopped both parties topping the tribal poll. In fact the DUP seems to wear it as a badge of honour.
    SF just seems far more bothered by its press coverage than its election performance merits. Why? Is there something uniqye in the psyche of the party that can’t handle it? Pro-republican commentators in particular seem obsessed with a handful of columnists on the Sindo, as if that’s ever swung much opinion.
    The impression the Shinners are creating is that they can’t cope with dissent – which is a far more damaging impression than anything anyone else ever writes about them. The party even has a policy in the south on breaking up media monopolies that’s quite clearly targeted at Tony O’Reilly. Have they never heard of lobbying? Their reaction to the media strikes me as rather amateurish – and hysterical.

  • Tara

    “While it may well be the case that Sinn Fein enjoys the editorial support of Daily Ireland”

    I would say that is putting it mildly!!!

  • Shore Road Resident

    Let’s not have another Daily Ireland conversation though. It isn’t worth it.

    I think my point is illustrated well by Kiberd’s assertion that anti-SF commentators represent a significant economic-security vested interest. This is totally absurd. How many people is he talking about here? A dozen? There are four or five on the Sindo, two or three on the Belfast Telegraph, one or actually less than one in the Irish News (Emerson is anti-everybody as far as I can tell) and Malachi O’Doherty on Talkback. Hardly a military-industrial-commentariat complex. In fact, it’s plainly Kiberd that has the complex.

    So on second thoughts let’s have a brief Daily Ireland conversation – how on earth can they justify printing this paranoid rubbish?

  • Tara

    Ok, I’m game…
    “a parallel industry has grown in the media — in the North and especially in the South — where writers are occupied on a virtually full-time basis in attacking Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the rest of republicanism.”

    This is not only crazy talk, from the standpoint of SF themselves, if they encouraged this in any way, it is REALLY crappy propaganda.

  • Observer

    The DUP might not be the unionist party of choice for the mainstream media but it certainly does not encounter the same degree of criticism from the papers as Sinn Fein does.

    The Belfast Telegraph, the North’s largest paper, is pro-union. While its news reporting is balanced most of the time, when it comes to critical editorials they tend to fall on the head of Sinn Fein moreso than the DUP.

    Likewise in the republic, the two main papers are anti-Sinn Fein and proud of it.

    Putting aside the Sunday Independent’s avowedly anti-Sinn Fein columnists, the paper routinely carries straight news stories that put the party in a bad light.

    The columnists can perhaps be dismissed as irrelevant in the wider scheme of things but the combination of opinion pieces, editorials and ‘scare’ stories cannot but help affect attitudes among its huge readership. The same approach is not taken to the DUP.

    Sinn Fein has plans for pre-eminence in both jurisdictions. It would be negligent of republicans not to confront their critics in the media.

    By consistently branding journalists ‘anti-republican’ the party is inviting them to prove they are not.

    The Workers Party once adopted a similar approach. They would accuse people of being ‘Provos’even if they were nothing of the sort.

    The net result was to create an environment in which people would refine their republican tendencies for fear of being denounced as a ‘Provo’.

    Whether it will work as effectively for Sinn Fein as it did for the Workers’ Party is another matter entirely.

  • Shore Road Resident

    True, again – but you must admit they’re really over-egging the pudding. This piece from Kiberd is typical. Do Daily Ireland readers – or more to the point, Sinn Fein voters – really give a monkey’s about columnists having a go at each other? The assertion that there’s an “industry” of people writing pieces slagging off the Shinners is daft enough to be obviously just plain wrong even to the generally disinterested.

    The strong impression I get from articles like this one is that Sinn Fein’s critics are hitting bulls eyes – otherwise, why come back at them in such an over-the-top fashion?

    It also has to be said that it’s a bit rich for Damian Kiberd to be bleating about undue media influence. Isn’t he working for Rupert Murdoch at the moment – in addition to running a radio station?

  • Observer

    Yes Kiberd does have good media clout and uses Newstalk 106 and Daily Ireland to air his views on the constitutional question. But his Sunday Times column sticks purely to business matters.

    Newstalk has a tiny listenership and Daily Ireland is not exactly taking the country by storm.

    Regardless of that, I’d be hard pressed to think of another self-declared republican commentator who has access to the readerships commanded by the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish Independent or the Sunday Independent.

    I agree that notions of an anti-Sinn Fein ‘industry’ are exaggerated but the list of writers sure is a lengthy one.

    On the nationalist side of the fence I can only think of Kiberd, Danny Morrison and Brian Feeney as being prepared to take up the cudgel on behalf of republicans.

    The other talented opinion formers tend to be highly critical e.g. Tom Kelly, Anthony McIntyre.

  • Shore Road Resident

    I guess that what I really mean here is that there’s more important things for columnists to be writing about than other columnists, regardless of persuasion. It comes over as self-obsessed and insecure. It also seems (correct me if I’m wrong) to be an overwhelmingly republican affliction.

  • kate

    Most shops in areas where SF is in control sell the papers that reflect SF policy, ie Daily Ireland and the ATN, and its sister papers. It’s mainly in the city centres or areas other than those that SF favor that sell the Observer,The Times the Independent and the Sunday Independent. Infact I have never seen those mainstream papers for sale at the local shops.

    What I am saying is, whether or not these mainstream papers are pro or anti SF should not affect its standing among its own and contribute to destabilising it.

    Other than that don’t they get equal coverage of the airwaves?

  • Observer

    Sinn Fein is the largest nationalist party in the North.

    I doubt very much the claim that broadsheets do not retail in republican-controlled areas. That would mean the four MPs’ entire constituencies.

    Sure, another salvo from Eoghan Harris is unlikely to shake the beliefs of the core Sinn Fein supporter.

    However Sinn Fein does not wish to stay in solely in its heartlands. It has big plans for the next Dail election.

    The broadsheet media is read by the type of voters Sinn Fein hopes to win over — just look at its most recent economic proposals.

    While the influence of the media is limited, the broadbrush approach taken against Sinn Fein by some newspapers does nonetheless cause it damage.

    I don’t think Kiberd was talking about other columnists as such, but what he believes are the PSNI’s pet journalists.

    I think the point he was making is that when Sinn Fein wants to ‘plant’ a story to make its opponents look bad it doesn’t have that many people to turn to.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Hmmm. I don’t think that anything other than partisanship could lead anyone to seriously disagree with Kiberd’s analysis of the media in Ireland. (Though I’m no fool – I’d say a big majority will disagree, but only because that big majority are not responding seriously.)

    He’s not talking about columnists here, not really. This isn’t about dissenting opinion. (Though SF’s credentials on dealing with dissent are threadbare, but that’s another story.) This is about disinformation. Black propaganda. This is about fictions being reported as fact in furtherance of political ends.

    And I don’t think anyone who is even halfway serious could dispute that such practices are widespread in Ireland. I know people will cry “conspiracy theories!” but come on, get real. Does anyone honestly believe that the most powerful forces in our society wouldn’t do that?

    Anyone who has ever worked in journalism in Ireland will be aware of at least one or two well-known journalists widely presumed to be in the employ of the security services on one or other side of the border. It would be irresponsible to name names, but how do you think some of our best-known reporters get their “security sources”? D’you think they meet at dinner parties or something?

    Of course, most of the time there is no need to actually pay reporters. Generally, the “security services” offer such a rich mine of sensational scoops that it’s impossible for an ambitious young reporter to resist. I’ll give you an example of how an ethical, responsible and even idealistic young journalist can succumb – I’ll leave you to imagine how the less scrupulous majority behave.

    Your editor is pressuring you to produce something but you’ve got nothing except a yarn that your shady contact told you over your bi-weekly cup of tea that the Provos may be running guns or may be “intelligence gathering” or what ever. There may be a “training camp” somewhere in Donegal, say. Take your pick. You tell your editor about this and he gets excited. He may even scold you for not spotting such a good story immediately. He tells you to “firm it up” so you look for a second source, independent of the first, but there isn’t one. It’s now five or six o’clock and it’s a slow day. There’s no obvious lead for the next day and your editor agitatedly tells you so. He says “what about that training camp?” and you tell him about your lack of progress. He asks how reliable your sole source is and you reply that he’s reliable, as it would be inconceivable that you would say anything else. The editor decides to run with the story but asks you to write it with the maximum plausible deniability built in. You base the story on your single “security source” and include lots of conditional sense sentences. You build the story up with a few bits of political reaction from the usual talking heads and hey presto, you’ve got your 400-odd words and your name over the lead. You are the hero of the hour, you’ve got a helluva scoop. They’re talking about it on Talkback. They’re reacting to it on Newsline. Everyone who wants to believe it is talking about the IRA troops massing on the border, getting ready to invade Strabane or wherever. You are flattered by the attention and your vanity trumps the ethical qualms eating at your conscience.

    The spooks crack open the champagne.

    See? It’s not far-fetched cloak and dagger stuff. It doesn’t have to be.

    You can bet this has been the genesis of stories like IRA involvement in Castlereagh or, to a more spectacular extent, Stormontgate. The whole thing was quite obviously bullshit but by giving it a name – “spy ring” – they knew the media would lap it up, and in time people would forget the details and remember only “spy ring”. Then the “spy ring” would become accepted as fact. Who knows, the same may even have been true for the Northern Bank raid.

    The surprise is not that such things happen but that, despite everything we know, most people are still prepared to unquestioningly believe whatever the security forces, and their newspaper of choice, tells them. The reason of course, is because it’s what they want to believe too. People will always believe what it’s in their interests to believe.

    So Kiberd, I think, is entitled to make the point that much of what we read in our newspapers ends up there because it’s in the interests of an alliance of people from within the security and journalistic establishments that it should. And he’s entitled to point out that presently, the full artillery of this alliance is directed at Sinn Fein.

  • spartacus
  • Pat Mc Larnon

    The editorial boards of newspapers (or more importantly their owners) can dictate the items that appear under their banners. The organ grinder at the Sindo certainly does and the assembled monkeys duly oblige.

    It is when these people try to convince that their output has something to do with the news. To highlight the fact that a lot of these newspapers are involved in the propaganda business is not to complain but simply flagging up a warning.

    As in all cases you pay your money and take your choice.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Billy, I’d have thought the solution to that for SF was obvious – cultivate journos themselves.
    Rather than setting up their own newspaper in which to call everyone else a tool of the securocrats.
    The looming-deadline thesis works just as well for a Shinner source as for a ‘securocrat’ source. But Shinner sources tend to seem, how can I put this???? ‘Remote-controlled’ might be the best term for it.

  • kate

    ‘I doubt very much the claim that broad sheets do not retail in republican controlled areas’
    Observer.
    Your take on what I said is a little off. I said that in republican controlled areas the papers that sell reflect SF policy such as daily ireland and the ATN. I said I have never seen them (the broadsheets) for sale in the local shops.Most shops will stock what sells and it is these type of papers ie ATN that sell in these areas, not the broadsheets. No one said they do not retail thru out SF heartlands.

  • FK

    …and setting up their own papers does nothing but serve the people who are already in their ranks. If they were to move toward dealing with journos they could potentially win some new souls.

  • spartacus

    kate:

    complete rubbish. you’ve really got your finger on the pulse there… not.

  • kate

    Spartacus. Incase you hadn’t noticed the thread is not just about the planting of bizarre stories in the media, but how it contributes to the destabilising of sf. If the papers that ‘observer’ mentioned ie the broad sheets which are mainly middle class papers are not widely read in SF heart lands which are working class areas then I fail to see how the stories planted in them contribute to the destabilising of SF. Or haven’t you read the article Mick linked up with Daily Ireland?

    It’s a minor point. Your link to the guardian post illustrates what I said. Since when did you go in to a shop in Poleglass/Twinbrook/St James and buy a guardian?

    But your two posts in this thread a ‘well said billy’ and a dig at me are of course genius….not.

  • TAFKABO

    Occams Razor

    Numquam ponendo est pluritas sine necessitate.

    or

    Multiples should never be used if not necessary.

    Surely it is feasible that Sinn Fein get such a bad press for no other reason than they deserve it?

  • Yoda

    Surely it is feasible that Sinn Fein get such a bad press for no other reason than they deserve it?

    Fair enough, but if Ockham’s assumptions permit one to assert that those with outdated sectarian philosophies “deserve” a certain kind of treatment in the media, then why is the outdated and bankrupt philosophy of the DUP not getting similar scrutiny? Is there really nothing to criticise?

    Really?

    If criticism of narratives that could be judged to hold progress back can be reasonably expected from a responsible newspaper or radio station, then why aren’t we getting more of that? Because it’s fairly obvious that we are dealing with outlets that are very partisan in their politics.

    And the very idea that one might be tagged as a shinner for even saying this is also very worrying.

  • spartacus

    kate:

    pleeeez. so hard to fiund an observer or a tribune around here…face it, you don’t have a clue.

  • spartacus

    oh, and i loved the part about how the ‘heartlands’ can’t read… thankfully, there’s people like you around to sort truth from fiction…

  • spartacus

    oh. and i loved the part about how the ‘heartlands’ can’t read. thankfully, there’s people like you around who can tell truth from fiction…

  • kate

    Spartacus I ought not to dignify your posts with an answer. If I don’t have a clue you have even less, since you are unable to interpet what is in front of you.

    Your contributions to this thread have been to play the man and not the ball. From the look of your above posts it is quite clear you are seeing double.LOL. But then no one else insults other peoples posts save those like yourself who are unable to contribute anything of intelligence.

  • DK

    From what I’ve seen, republican areas tend to stock the nationalist papers, the UK tabloids and the Belfast Telegraph. No Newsletter and a limited selection of broadsheets (just the Guardian or Times – if you’re lucky). But the same could be said of loyalist areas – not so much a conspiracy as market forces. What small newspaper shop owner is going to stump up for papers that he/she can’t sell?

  • DK

    On the other hand there is usually a very good selection of porn

  • The Dubliner

    An outstanding article from Damien Kiberd that hits a multiplicity of nails firmly on each respective head. The media needs more journalists of his calibre, and far less whimpering muppets and puppets.

  • Mick Fealty

    Spartacus,

    Surely you can make a substantive point without getting personal! You are perfectly entitled to ‘sockpuppet’ rather than use your own name, but please don’t abuse it by attacking someone who has the courage to use her own name!!

  • spartacus

    kate:

    let me try to explain. i can get today’s guardian in about a minute’s walk from where i sit. in fact i might. if they have run out i can walk a few minutes further and get one. and if they’re out and i’m in an athletic mood i can go a bit further. so you’re wrong, plain and simple.

    but there is a larger point. why would anyone WANT to buy the observer when they run such rubbish, and so consistently? why would anyone want to buy the independent, except to find out what the current anti-SF pitch is these days? the tribune, maybe on the weekend, but then you have to put up with suzanne breen telling us what a lovely man peter robinson is deep down, extolling the loyal housewifery of eileen paisley, or giving us the folksy rendition of willie frazier. steeped in a sectarian haze, in other words, that seems to sell well enough in the south but which i can’t bring myself to put up with.

    i’m not crazy about di or atn, but probably for reasons that wouldn’t make sense to you. atn is sensationalist, and spends most of its time trashing young people. it is pretty obvious that for a long time it has been preparing people to buy into joining the psni–see monday’s edition. di represents what i would consider the most conservative end of republicanism, reflecting the entrepreneurial, green and religiously pious end of republicanism. not my cup of tea, but on the other hand, is there any other paper published in this country that has not bought into the bush crusade, or which is not weeping openly for the war criminal sharon?

    someone mentioned out here a few weeks ago that there does not exist a tradition of investigative journalism in the irish print media. i think that’s true. but why is that? does it have anything to do with the fact that so few journalists are willing to break ranks with the status quo for fear of being castigated as a provo, as happens out here on slugger so often with anyone critical of british policy, loyalist sectarianism? i think so. why did it take a paul foot to write the book on colin wallace?

    in short, i think people are more discerning about what they read than you give them credit for. as to srr’s point, made early in this post, what is so wrong with the aspiration to break up o’reilly’s lock on the print media. in a democratic society, shouldn’t the citizenry have access to a broad range of opinion? doesn’t monopoly inhibit that? should the means of disseminating news and information be owned by several individuals, whose only claim on them is that they happen to have enough wealth to be able to purchase them?

  • spartacus

    mick, kate:

    point taken, and apologies for any personal offense. i spent some time last night writing an extended and oh-so nuanced response to kate’s early post, but it got lost in the etherworld when i went to post. i then went shorthand, and blunt.

  • George

    On DUP not getting the same treatment as SF.

    There is a very easy answer to that, nobody south of the border has the slightest bit of interest in the DUP and what it has to say. As long as they keep to their pfeifdom north of the border, southerners don’t care. Sure, the odd story of homophobia or a whack religious comment or something else to embarrass them but a detailed analysis of their views? Not a chance. Nobody would read it.

    SF has a presence in the Republic. Sit in the presence of the middle-aged middle class of an evening and they like nothing more than to regurgitate the anti-SF story they have read earlier in the day in the Indo.

    Having a go at SF sells papers to the all-important ABC1 category south of the border and SF is hardly awash with ABC1s itself so it’s a bit of a no-brainer for the editorial staff.

    Their readership want them to have a go at SF and they would love to think it is destabilising the party.

  • kate

    ‘iam not crazy about the di or atn probably for reasons that wouldn’t make sense to you’

    Really!! such intellectual snobbery is laughable on such a minor point.

    ‘so few journalists are afraid to break ranks with the status quo for fear of being castagated as a provo’

    It wasn’t all that long ago the same criticism was levied at journalists who did not want to break ranks with the status quo for fear of upsetting or damaging the peace process.

    ”i can get todays guardian about a minutes walk from where I sit’

    If you live near to one of the shopping mals thats very likely. Most of the smaller local shops tend to sell what DK has already mentioned unless you have placed a standing order. So I am ‘not wrong plain and simple’ as you are not completely right.

    ‘i think people are more discerning about what they read than you give them credit for”

    Maybe so but I tend to agree with DK on this one,the bulk of what is sold in nationalist areas is the nationalist press, the UK tabloids and the telegraph.

  • Grassy Noel

    I would agree with Kiberd, I think people who try to deny that there is an anti-SF bias in the Irish media are either trying to cloak over the facts or are for some reason deluding themselves. Or maybe just hopelessly naive. And before I get pulled apart for these comments let me just say I’m not and never have been a shinner myself, although I am a southern catholic. Let’s just get that out of the way.

    Another thing is I believe this constant Sinn Féin bashing is quite counter-productive because it’s so obvious. I’m from an area quite close to the North Kerry Constituency and I can tell you that when the rest of the political parties in North Kerry tried to’gang up’ on Martin Ferris in the last election, even convincing Dick Spring to come out of retirement in an attempt to ‘head off’ or deflect the rising SF vote, it was a complete shambles. Ferris trounced everybody and topped the poll with a larger margin than previously predicted.

    The ragbag of columnists who line out against SF week in, week out may think they’re doing the right thing morally and strategically,but not only is it blatantly obvious to anyone with even the slightest hint of an idea what goes on in editorial meetings, or anyonewho’s not compltely clueless about how the real world works that they’re all slavishly following the editorial and political establishment line, which comes across as a bit pathetic, even to the neutral observer) but they are also alienating a lot of fence-sitters and moderate nationalists & republicans. As a result expect further growth of the SF vote in forthcoming elections.

    The whole socio-political & journalistic scene in Ireland is a bit distasteful quite frankly, and despite all our pretences towards 21st Century ‘savoir-faire’ and Celtic Tiger sophistication, reflects what a silly, immature, and dull little island nation we still are.

  • kate

    ‘as to ssr’s post early on in the post what is so wrong with the aspiration to break up o’reillys lock on the print media’

    Maybe you could ask Damien Kiberd as SSR later pointed out doesn’t he work for Murdoch in addition to running a radio station?’

  • spartacus

    kate:

    now who’s being petty here? as you can’t seem to let go of your earlier point about what news is available i will bow out of that one and return to reading the guardian–which i bought in a small shop around the corner.

    i am not damien kiberd’s agent, nor do i agree with everything he writes. it should be obvious from what i wrote above that i am in favor of more fundamental changes in the way citizens are informed about what’s going on around them. so retire that one too.

    as to ‘intellectual snobbery,’ i wish i had a penny for every time i saw di described as the ‘daily provo’ etc. out here. srr himself suggests on this very thread that what it prints gets transmitted directly from some party cabal. i was making the points 1) that there are good reasons to be critical of it and the atn without falling into that conspiratorial nonsense, and 2) that probably many more people than you or srr thinks are able to read them critically without falling into the fairytale world depicted in mainstream irish journalism.

    but anyway, your point, so far as i can understand it, is that since supposedly no one in the ‘republican heartlands’ reads much beyond the tabloids and the nationalist press, why does it matter any way whether an army of writers and paid commentators sustain a relentless barrage of anti-SF invective?

    i would think the answer should be apparent. for thirty plus years the establishment north and south has managed, through various means including direct censorship, to deprive citizens of access to a balanced account of what has been going on here. that continues through to today. in the south, especially, the aim of the operation seems to me to be to find a way to keep sf in its box, to erect a wall between them and the public. journalists who have risen to where they are largely on the basis of their anti-republican credentails (many of them ex-workers party, etc.) seem only too happy to oblige.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Shore Road Resident

    “I’d have thought the solution to that for SF was obvious – cultivate journos themselves. Rather than setting up their own newspaper in which to call everyone else a tool of the securocrats.”

    I don’t think it’s as simple as cultivating individual journalists. You’re talking about a long-established and deeply-entrenched journalistic culture. I have no doubt that there are plenty of individuals within the ranks of the Independent stable or the Irish Times or the Irish News or wherever that are far more sympathetic to Sinn Fein than their employers’ editorial policy. I don’t doubt even that they are more sympathetic than even their own work might suggest. But young, ambitious reporters will be aware that republican sympathies won’t help them to progress in their careers.

    It’s not some sinister plot, it’s actually quite simple. For example, say the editorship of the Indo came up. The candidates would have to attend an interview in which, perhaps Tony O’Reilly himself would be present, or at the very least one of his sons. Now, say there are three candidates, all amply qualified. Say one is a Fine Gaeler or PD, one a socialist and one a Sinn Feiner. Without knowing anything further about the candidates, we already know who’s getting the job, don’t we? (Actually this is fantasy – neither the socialist or SFer would get anywhere near interview, but you get the point.)

    Furthermore, you have to remember that powerful as the editor is, he still works for O’Reilly. He has been employed by O’Reilly and is well aware of what the boss wants. The same fact of life works its way down the food chain. I don’t think that O’Reilly ever tells Vinnie Doyle what to run and what not to run – he has enough wit to choose editors that he won’t have to instruct. Vinnie Doyle at the Indo knows what the boss wants. Doyle’s editorial staff knows what he wants. Cub reporters fresh from college know what the news editor wants. And so on. Those cub reporters might not like the slant they have to take (or the slant that the sub-editors put in later) but they haven’t built up the stature or credibility that would allow them to fight their corner. By the time they become senior enough, they’ve long since “grown out” of the principles they had as undergrads and tyros. Now they have kids and mortgages instead of principles. And on it goes.

    Now, what’s true for the private sector is doubly true for the public sector. At least, if he were minded to, Vinnie Doyle can approach O’Reilly and argue his corner – it’s harder for the head of RTE or BBCNI to deal with a faceless bureaucratic machine, with the BBC/RTE boards, and ultimately with the Taoiseach/PM. This creates a culture of caution and conservatism and doing news-by-press-release, in which the only acceptable political view is to appear not to have any. (Which is, of course, the most insidious of all the buttresses of the status quo.)

    So how do you change the culture? Two possible answers to that: one, over a very, very long time; or two, you can’t, so you start your own paper.

    I’m more inclined towards the latter, to be honest. So, apparently, are Sinn Fein, as was DeValera when he founded the Irish Press. Our media are absolutely entrenched in the power structures of our society. Sinn Fein, like 1920s Fianna Fail and like various left-wing groups, exist outside that establishment. I think it’s a reasonable analysis to conclude that the existing power structures are more likely to wear down those who want change than vice versa. Therefore the most obvious strategy is to attempt to build an alternative power structure. Previously for republicans this meant militarily. Now it’s media.

    ”The looming-deadline thesis works just as well for a Shinner source as for a ‘securocrat’ source.”

    No it doesn’t. You will never see a story built around the word of an unnamed republican source unless the story is damaging to republicans. You might see a story splashed across the front of the Sindo in which an unnamed republican source claims that, I don’t know, that Martin McGuinness fired the first shot on Bloody Sunday. However, you won’t see any paper trusting an unnamed republican source when the story is about, say, special branch recruiting and protecting young criminals in the nationalist community. (Which is a huge and ongoing scandal in local communities but is one of those dogs-in-the-street stories that the media has never touched, and would not be inclined to touch either.)

    Security sources, on the other hand, are trusted implicitly, no matter what they say – despite a litany of instances in which they have demonstrably dissembled and put out black propaganda.

    Now, one can understand how a journalist might be taken in, but when you start to see the same journalists taken in, time after time after time (and I’m sure one or two names spring to all our minds) then at the very least it should be clear that the media should be approached with a critical mind.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “But Shinner sources tend to seem, how can I put this???? ‘Remote-controlled’ might be the best term for it.”

    That’s your interpretation. You may be right, but have you ever considered that a) you might not be right, or at least not 100 per cent right, or that b) the same might be true of the “security sources” in which you might be inclined place your trust? (What, for example, is your reaction to Sam Kinkaid’s highly destabilising remarks last night?)

  • kate

    Yes spartacus that was my point, it was, due to your ‘blunt’ posts a little over laboured, but we got there in the end.

    you write,’the establishment north and south has managed thru various means including censorship to deprive citizens of a balanced account of what has been going on here.’

    Fundamentally I agree with some caution. I believe, as is your right, that you are being critical of the stand taken by the press regarding its anti SF stance. Well I was at the corner shop myself today, one that doesn’t sell the Guardian, and bought the Irish News, something you may see as a ‘nationalist rag’and perhaps we who read it are not so discerning. It’s headlines ‘Is Scap involved in my fathers murder?’ You have I assume seen Micks thread regarding the PA statement from Adams, so I would rephrase what you wrote too:-

    ‘The RM north and south managed thru various means including it’s own media outlets such as the ATN to deprive citizens of what has been going on here..’

    Information and its dissemination should be free of monopolies – all monopolies including RMs influence, that way we will be a step further in having free speech. It’s censorship more brutal than a bann on the airwaves.

    I am sorry that we got off to a bad start,and that you feel the press are being unfairly criticised for being pro SF, but I have no faith anymore in SF. The broadsheets are not major opinion formers in nationalist areas, their influence is limited,whether the local shop near you sells it or not, and i don’t think planting bizarre (or not so bizzare) stories are to curb the rise of SF. Perhaps it is just the playing out of the end game,and it is time now for our citizenry to know what has really gone on.

    I enjoyed our exchange once we got over the ‘bluntness’ but I am afraid I have little left to say on this matter. Hopefully we can argue the toss on some other topic.

  • TAFKABO

    Grassy Noel (funny name, is that what you get after stakeknife has been taken already?).

    I don’t think anyone is denying that there exists an anti Sinn Fein bias.
    I for one am happy to see it in place.

    I thought the point of the discussion was why it was there, not whether or not it was there.