A different aspect of Martin McGuinnness’s latest from Mick’s. (I’ve started so I”ll finish). I know from my own experience and observation of long ago that it makes you a better reporter if you have two outlets: the daily skirmishing for the local audience and the bigger field for clearing away the smoke of battle to try to explain what it all means to the wider world.
How do the benefits accrue? The devil is often buried in the frustrating and repetitive detail of daily coverage and there’s no substitute for close observation. But there’s a trap waiting for local reporters however. They and their editors can so easily become jaded and fall into the temptation of simply topping up the narrative without bothering much to put it into context. On the other hand the purely national reporter can seem extravagantly judgemental or oversell a story to compete for scarce space.
The redoubtable Liam Clarke now enjoys the best of both worlds. His recent appointment as political editor has given a boost to the Belfast Telegraph, while he continues to contribute (even if, inevitably, less frequently) to the Sunday Times.
Clarke has squeezed maximum value out of his first face- to face interview with Martin McGuiness in which they seem to have buried an old hatchet. By contrast with Gerry Adams, McGuinness never beat about the bush about his IRA membership but he used that bald admission to try to draw a line under what it was he precisely was responsible for. It was this more sophisticated form of obfuscation that Clarke and his wife Karthryn Johnson challenged in From Guns to Government (for which they received scant thanks from the police and others). Now in a mini-peace process all their own, Clarke and McGuinness have made it up , no doubt out of mutual interest.
For the Sunday Times courtesy of Newshound, we get Clarke on McGuinness’s world view of this “game changing year” with early comparisons to other watersheds like 1989 and 1968 “ the year of revolutions” ( all of which failed, mind you). The message coming through in the Sunday Times and the Bel Tel was one of McGuinness speaking with magnanimity through strength, offering to finesse the great FMDFM issue by simply rebranding the posts as Joint First Minister. But still no give yet on voluntary coalition. Who knows, that could come when or if SF’s leading nationalist role is confirmed. Either way at this moment, it looks like win:win for the newly unencumbered leader of Sinn Fein in the Assembly.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London