In the Belfast Telegraph, Maurice Neill argues that “Recognition of the contribution to peace made by the media and journalists in Northern Ireland is long overdue.” I’ve no doubt of the contribution, but the “well-behaved witness” now needs to start asking “stupid” questions. Otherwise false, or partial, narratives will go unchallenged as those witnesses continue to ignore “the bits that do not suit particular prejudices”. And when “agreed truth becomes accepted, the real truth becomes a lie”. You can decide for yourself who’s still playing role of the “well-behaved witness” here on the issue of who’s looking over their shoulder as they calculate the fall-out of promises broken. As Peter Preston correctly identified
Politicians and journalists may work, drink, dine and go on holiday together. Some journalists may even become politicians, or vice-versa. But the roles are separate, and essentially adversarial. Politicians run governments and seek to exercise power in the name of the people. Journalists serve those people directly day by day, for they are their readers and viewers. They do not, if theyre wise, want power for themselves. They do, though, have a direct hand in the workings of democracy. Their stock in trade is information (which, to be frank, the politicians wish to keep under wraps). Information is the lifeblood of freedom. It is also its most contentious commodity. Most battles between press and politics are really information wars.
As an additional point, back in April 2007 Peter Hain revealed an uncomfortable detail about something that, for some, appears to have become the “agreed truth”
Mr Hain: I hope my friends and colleagues on the other side of the border will not take offence at this, but I think there was some unhelpful spin from some elements in Dublin which hyped up the interpretation of joint stewardship. Joint stewardship of the process was a very carefully chosen phrase. It did not imply joint authority, as I said earlier, joint governance: it implied joint stewardship of the process of bringing peace, of putting in concrete the peace and seeking restoration of the devolved institutions. That is what it meant, and that is what it will mean, that and nothing else. I do agree that interpretation seems to have been the reason that, in the case of the UVF at least, they would not do anything until after 24 November. I think that is an excuse, frankly, and now that they know that that has been clarified by myself in particular, there is no reason for them to delay at all. [added emphasis]