#Aras11: How the Press got it wrong on Gallagher (and failed to admit it)

Whilst it was perfectly legitimate to probe Martin McGuinness on his paramilitary past in the course of a Presidential election the key reason (character) for doing so was rarely crystalised by the many good journalists who did so.

To be blunt, you cannot make political murder a reason for not taking office in state that was founded on killing and rebellion, no matter how many columns of outrage get printed in the Sunday Independent.

You can make lying about it an issue though.

There are many good reasons why Martin McGuinness cannot give full disclosure about the past. He, like any other ex combatant, has no immunity from prosecution by the British or Irish states.

That does not explain the plain untruth that he left the IRA in 1974. It’s simply not true. It now appears that Mr McGuinness’s ‘story’ about Sean Gallagher picking up a cheque for Fianna Fail was not true either.

Gallagher’s struggle to recollect the incident arose from the fact that there was no cheque to be collected. Payment for his picture with the then Taoiseach had already been cashed by Mr Morgan. There wasn’t even a brown envelope.

Sinn Fein had successfully employed the indignant weight of RTE’s moral outrage to kill a front runner. Machiavelli would have approved.

Now what happens in the midst of live TV programme is one thing, but three days later there are politically informed people in Dublin saying the press should have been on this story weeks ago.

Rather than correct their mistake, the ingenue candidate has had to spend the last few days explaining (and therefore losing) that he was stitched up by Sinn Fein and the national broadcaster.

In the meantime the main beneficiary is likely to be the main government candidate, and a party whose penchant for not being quite straight with the truth makes Fianna Fail look like innocent paragons of virtue.
The real problem is a press that seems determined to fight last years political wars .

Sinn Fein is not dangerous because it retrospectively wants to legitimise its armed struggle in Northern Ireland or that it seeks power, both north and south (rather they can be lauded for taking their ambitions more seriously than many of their Republican critics).

It is problematic because its politicians haVe too often proven unreliable witnesses in the press. A press that may need reminding that Fianna Fail are in opposition and nursing nearly €2 million of a deficit, whilst Fine Gael are €4 million in the black.

Sean Gallaghers a big boy, he can look after himself, the real problem may be that we have conformist/confirmist press which is long on collective hysteria and short on independent judgement.

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