How the politics of secrecy has underminded our politics…

Much of the damage being down to the two main political parties in Northern Ireland, shares its roots in one thing above all else: a culture of secrecy. It is not, of course, uncommon for politicians to resort to law to trim a journalist’s output to make it less damaging. But the extent to which lawyers have been all over both these stories in the last few weeks has been extraordinary. In particular, Mr Robinson finds himself in a position made much more difficult by his press office’s assumption that journalists can be punished for impudence, by being given virtually no access to party spokesmen (Robinson himself refused to give a full interview to the BBC for 18 months). He will find that whatever the contrition of today, those journalists he kept out now have much more contact with his party across its spectrum of opinion than ever before. There can be no back sliding, since his party has de facto become more open as a result of the crisis.

Attempts to micro manage any future crises, will require great deal more than a lock down at the Press Office. Nothing less than full engagement with critics both inside and outside the party will suffice to get him through. As for Sinn Fein, even before today’s Tribune story, we were being given an ongoing textbook lesson in how not to manage bad news.

All of these techniques worked at a time when both comment and the opportunity to publish it was scarce… Neither is true any more… If politicians want to be heard above the din they need to be both engaging and truthful… Something that neither of the two party leaders in question can, hand on heart, honestly claim about their various outputs over the last few weeks…

The rising generation of politicians will need to acquire new skills and re-learn the art of open political conversation… Surely hey need no further lessons in just how destructive the old closed oligarchy can be…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty