The annual annoraks Christmas present

A review of the regional daily papers offers an insight not only into what the documents revealed under the thirty-year rule, but it provides an insight into the political nature and interpretation provided by the local media.

From “burrowing like rats” to “systematic beatings by the ‘Goon Squad'” our local papers have got their readership all summed up.Aww … yes … asides from Father Christmas with his sack of goodies, a highlight of this time of year has to be the annual release of confidential state papers under the thirty-year rule.

While some grinch-like public representatives try to pour cold water on the feast by criticising news outlets for looking back thirty-years for headlines, I am quite sure they, like us was enjoyed the different interpretations of the same sheaf of historic documents.

Naturally all three Northern Irish daily papers yesterday led with stories from the treasure trove.

Although, before I let loose my thought on that, perhaps it is also worth noting that only one of the papers, the Irish News to name names, actually used the services of an historian, the notable Dr Eamon Phoenix, to sift through the thousands of pages while the others relied on their own reporters and Press Association (a symptom of what is becoming very common in today’s media which I can only refer to as a symptom of the ‘lazies’ and/or accountants).

The News Letter devoted their flagship front space to IRA informers behind the wire, the Irish News focused on the alleged brutal tactics of RUC officers in the infamous Castlereagh holding centre and the Belfast Telegraph opted for the southern Government’s “doomsday” plan for northern Catholics.

Reading through the papers treatment of the information seemed like a political act itself.

Perhaps then appropriately given this observation, the News Letter called on their political editor Stephen Dempster to do the honours.

In an inside spread, he touched on the tunneling endeavors of inmates at the Maze. He quotes comments made by civil servants who quite patronisingly praise the tunnels as “a form of group exercise involving much planning and effort – thus providing a boost to morale and so also offering a certain therapeutic value”.

I almost feel like diving down to start trying to scrabble through the carpet myself for some much needed exercise and “therapy”.

Dempster goes on to quote a description of the men as “burrowing like rats”.

Speeding from the papers Linenhall Street base up Royal Avenue to Donegall Street, there is a distinctly different feel to the Irish News coverage.

Outrage is expressed at the alleged “goon squad” of ten RUC officers who are accused of being responsible for the worst of the beatings received by men questioned for terrorist offences.

Flicking through to the inside package, the Pope was “gravely concerned” at the conditions inside the Maze during the “dirty protests”, which we should note was self inflicted.

The Belfast Telegraph meanwhile displays a whole different approach with the rehashing of the good old “doomsday” scenario for northern Catholics in the event of all out civil war.

The front splash is somewhat uncomfortably juxtaposed beside the sage advice to beat the credit crunch by having sex more.

Inside they display a series of shorter articles to appeal to both sides including revelations that Government feared loyalist backlash after the horrific firebomb which gutted La Mon and another look at the escalation of the dirty protests.

However they aren’t without gems, most notably the burgeoning relationship between De Valera and Gaddaffi. Gaddaffi thinking De Valera was into equestrian pursuits gifted him with a riding whip, a saddle and bridle, but no horse. (Down boy!)

Newspapers biased as charged? Answers on a postcard …

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Not much point in having a 30 year rule if we know all the stuff anyway.

    Really interesting stuff that might potentially destabilise the political situation e.g. a senior DUP member was a paramiltiary leader or Grizzly or Marty were definitely Engleze spies would be locked up for another 30 years.

    Only ‘revelation’ I noticed was that the Englezes were not interested in ceasefire in 1978 and this intransigence may have helped prolong the war.

  • Andrew Charles wrote “Flicking through to the inside package (of the Irish News) , the Pope was “gravely concerned” at the conditions inside the Maze during the “dirty protests”, which we should note was SELF INFLICTED. “

    Can I ask whose opinion, which I’ve highlighted, is offered; is it the Pope’s, the Irish News’ or Andrew Charles’ ?

  • they can still hold on to stuff that might put someone’s life in risk who is still alive? yea?

  • Rory Carr

    “The front splash is somewhat uncomfortably juxtaposed beside the sage advice to beat the credit crunch by having sex more.”

    Can you please explain to me what is a “sex more” and where I might acquire one, if indeed you think there may be any value in such an acquisition?

    I am also having some difficulty with this oddly constructed paragraph:

    “Flicking through to the inside package, the Pope was “gravely concerned” at the conditions inside the Maze during the “dirty protests”, which we should note was self inflicted.”

    Did the Pope become “gravely concerned” because of his “flicking through to the inside package”? Has he since been advised to desist from such angst-ridden flicking for health reasons do you know?

    And how can we note which “which” was “self-inflicted” when we have no idea of which “which” you are blethering on about? Perhaps you might like to try and tell us in simple language with which you might be more comfortable.

  • Idiotproof

    As is standard practise, I would imagine the parts in quotation marks are the bits which were quoted from the Irish News.

    Certainly would seem unlikely that the Irish News would talk about the appalling conditions inside the Maze at that time as being self inflicted. Looks fairly safe to assume the self inflicted jibe was Andrews own.

  • Rory Carr

    Thank you, Idiotproof.

    Do you think he might mean ‘self-inflicted’ in the sense that the gunshot wounds to Jean Charles de Menezes’s head were ‘self-inflicted’?

    Can you shed any light on what a ‘sex more’ might be and where I might buy one? I have no idea what they might be, except that they sound as though they might be fun – like a yo-yo or a hula-hoop perhaps.

  • Labtec

    Wot has Charles DE Menezes got to do with it?

    He did after all run away from the police

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: Do you think he might mean ‘self-inflicted’ in the sense that the gunshot wounds to Jean Charles de Menezes’s head were ‘self-inflicted’?
    Since de Menezes did not shoot himself, nor was he a terrorist, then no part of his fate was self inflicted.
    Unlike convicted criminals who wrap themselves in blankets and smear the walls of their own cells with shit. Therefore “the conditions inside the Maze” were self-inflicted on every level.

  • Rory Carr

    If the prisoners covered their nakedness with blankets because they were denied their own clothes to wear and if they they smeared their excrement upon the walls in an attempt at dispersal because toilet facilities were denied to them then it is clear that rather than inflicting the worst effects of their enforced conditions upon themselves they were in fact doing their best to combat those effects.

    The conditions were in fact inflicted upon them by the prison authorities in a crude and cruel attempt to have them accept criminal status despite the clear political motivation underlying their actions. Their refusal to capitulate strikes me and many others as nothing short of heroic.

    Those who side with the sadistic machinations of the authorities however are infuriated by such displays of human nobility and must always attempt to distort them in order to deflect from their own petty ignobility of spirit.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: …because…because…
    At any time they had the options open to all of the other prisoners – prison clothing and the prison regime. So – as I said – self-inflicted.
    I take it you will at least no longer suggest that de Menezes should be viewed in the same light as convicted terrorists? Even Ian Blair won’t go *that* far now.

  • Rory Carr

    The term “convicted terrorist” is merely a pejorative description and has no basis in law and insofar as you choose to apply it to Republican prisoners it has as much validity as if I choose to apply the term to George W Bush or Tony Blair who have been so convicted in my mind and the minds of many, many others. No doubt they would counter that their actions were political.

    This ‘option’ of wearing prison garb was not available without surrendering to the acceptance of criminal status. It was a question of principle, if you understand what I mean.