“A spokesman from OFMDFM declined to comment.”

Two mentions of that extraordinary letter from OFMDFM in two separate articles in the Belfast Telegraph today. First in a report of a speech by John Corey of ICTU at a sparsely attended rally in Belfast – “I would say to the two ministers that what the Belfast Telegraph prints is the least of their problems.” The second is by the deputy leader of the UUP, Danny Kennedy, MLA.

“Two weeks ago the DUP was threatening the local media with possible legal repercussions if they carried a story about the collective expenses of their MPs,” the UUP MLA said. “Then last week it was revealed that the DUP leader, along with Martin McGuinness, had written to the owner of the Belfast Telegraph complaining about how they reported Executive business. “The media has a very specific role in every democracy. No political party will ever be entirely happy with media coverage.”

Mr Kennedy said he was “very disturbed” by the “in tandem” complaint against “Northern Ireland’s largest circulation newspaper”. “Maybe an apology would be in order, along with an apology to a dedicated and hardworking core of journalists across Northern Ireland. “Newspapers are not an extension of the DUP-SF propaganda machine. It is their job to report and comment on political reality, not the Pollyanna version of it so beloved by our co-equal First Ministers,” he added. A spokesman from OFMDFM declined to comment.

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  • Zoon Politikon

    The BBC has reported that, ‘The first and deputy first ministers have met the Belfast Telegraph’s editor to express concerns about its reporting of the executive’s economic policy.’ A question now arises in the guise of how free the press really is in Northern Ireland?

  • Granni Trixie

    Although I have issues with some journalistic practices leading to unfair reporting, I appauld people like David Gordon who have put the spotlight on a culture in which it seems to be OK to milk the system.

    I therefore trust that this action by,surprizingly, 2 v. experienced politicians, proves to be an own goal. They are trying to deflect attention from issues of their own accountability by ‘shooting the messenger’.

  • Pete Baker

    Indeed, Trixie.

    Although it is questionable just how “experienced” those 2 politicians, and their backroom handlers, are in a democratic and accountable system.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Parties of protest have no idea how to govern, they will eventually dissapear up their own rhetoric, as they can now only oppose themselves.

    They will follow Labour into the abyss of spin, hype and wishful thinking.

  • “people like David Gordon who have put the spotlight on”

    Yes but they can only shine the spotlight on those areas that their editors and proprietors acquiesce to.

    For example, my planning stories from Ballyallaght and the Blackside were both covered but only the first made it into the mainstream domain.

    I understand that the second was blocked on legal grounds yet the information is available to the public in government and MSM journalistic sources.

  • jivaro

    There are big issues here. We have a permanent sectarianised coalition government. There is no opposition worth the name. No political or personal misstep by anyone in the Executive could possibly result in a change of Government. Incompetence is no bar to office, nor a reason for losing it: nor is the censure of the Assembly.

    In such conditions of electoral unaccountability, is it much of a surprise that local political bigwigs experience delusions of grandeur? The political system of Northern Ireland has been explicitly designed to preserve sectarian clientelism, and it has done so. We now see the fruits of the years of agitation for devolution at any price – a campaign in which the Belfast Telegraph was very much to the fore.

    The O’Neillite fantasy that the politics of our wee Ulster represented a superior form of political existence is now devouring its own.

    What can the OFM and dFM lose politically by being seen to try to strongarm the BT? Nothing.

    It is up to the BT – and the rest of the media – to gather what remains of their strength and stand up to this attack.

    But I fear their position may be weak.

    There are two weapons in the OFMDFM repertoire which may have the power quickly bring the BT and others to heel: the first is the public sector advertising spend, worth many millions to the BT etc: and the second is the grant regimes by which public funds are pumped into the private sector.

    It’s well known that NI has a large public sector: but there are few firms in the private sector that do not depend on public sector contracts, purchasing power and grant monies for their survival. They are all vulnerable to a turning off of those taps.

    The howls of protest from the Swish Family Robinson about the coverage of their affairs in the News of the World and the London dailies were so shrill because those media are beyond the reach of their threats. The BBC is also beyond their reach, as the cornerboy antics of Peter Robinson over Martina Purdy’s questioning illustrated.

    There have probably already been letters written to Ormeau Avenue about her… but that’s just speculation on my part.

    Simplest thing would be for the Executive Information Service to headhunt David Gordon and a couple of others. Civil service PR pay scales are far higher than BT pay rates. Much cleaner than writing silly letters to Tony O’Reilly that get leaked.

    Of course, on the hardball side, if it comes to a choice in the BT between losing David Gordon or losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in Government ad spend, I don’t fancy David’s chances.

    In any event shall see what Tony O’Reilly is made of.