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28 September 2006 Edition

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Media View By Frank Farrell

Irish Times twists the reality of sectarianism

Now and then a slip of the tongue or pen reveals, in just a few words, a chasm of ignorance, prejudice or, even worse, a political agenda that compels a journalist to consciously twist reality. The lead-up to the recent Drumcree jamboree of Bible-belt sectarianism was characterised by a supine, negligent response from the now thoroughly-discredited Parades Commission, legal action by Garvaghy Road resident Joe Duffy which effectively forced the commission to revise its decision, and a pervasive fear by nationalists that they would be terrorised once again by rampaging loyalist gangs.

If a High Court judge of the Crown, Mr Justice Weathurup, could recognise the danger signals, one imagines that the longstanding Northern editor of The Irish Times, Gerry Moriarty, would be able to make a similar assessment and bring to his readers a sense of the threat to Garvaghy Road Catholics. But Moriarty offered perhaps the most asinine commentary on Portadown and Northern sectarianism that this hack has witnessed for a long time in his report this week. The intrepid Moriarty, in an effort to provide on-the-spot flavour and analysis for his readers told how "a couple of younger nationalists in Celtic jerseys (!) taunted 'two-nil', a reference to Celtic's defeat of Rangers in a soccer game that afternoon."

In a following paragraph, with precisely the same emphasis and gravity, Moriarty wrote how "a couple of supporters of the Orangemen made taunts about 'Mickey Bo', a reference to Catholic teenager Michael McIlveen murdered in a sectarian attack in Ballymena during the summer."

So there you have it. According to the veteran Irish Times Northern commentator, a football victory chant from teenage Catholics is the same as loyalists gloating about a child being kicked and beaten to death by loyalist murderers. If you have rotten politics you will produce rotten journalism. The Irish Times has for long propagated the notion that sectarian loyalists besieging and sometimes murdering Catholics in their homes is the same as Catholics being besieged and murdered by loyalists - 'there's the pair of them in it' argument for the comfort and delectation of middle-class South Dublin who need intellectual justification for abandoning those 'Northern troublemakers'. Moriarty should be ashamed of himself and for once a stiff letter or two to his newspaper just might be worth the trouble in the faint hope that the paper might actually print them.

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Your columnist reverted to his curmudgeonly mindset last weekend as the most artificially-hyped sporting event on the planet (after the, er, Ingerland football team) was greeted by the media with the same fervour as if Ireland had won the World Cup. "Europe's triumph on and off fairways ... new beautiful game ... afternoon of heroics" - and that's just The Irish Times - were the sort of overblown headlines and coverage of the corporate, transatlantic bliss that was the Ryder Cup. Goys in Brown Thomas sportswear, armies of security men, preening zillionaires and the golfers' Stepford partners pranced in front of a fawning sports media who were allowed to gaze in awe at the supposed titans, who play the slowest-moving sport ever invented, while the media affected a European euphoria at victory over the Americans. Sure, you wouldn't get real atmosphere like that on Hill 16 on All Ireland Final day. Would you?

Some of the commentary became especially ridiculous with babble about the superior European culture of teamwork triumphing over American individualism, as various pundits tried to develop our sense of European identity - a commodity about as substantial as Michael McDowell's republicanism. Some hacks acknowledged their embarrassment with the odd cynical aside but Irish Times columnist Kathy Sheridan was savaged by a Questions & Answers audience stuffed with local golfing anoraks and Straffan gombeen types when she spoke of the vulgarity of it all. Kathy is true to her old-moneyed, old political family background and she recognises poor taste when she sees it, but she fought a losing battle against a combination of tourist greed and the cringing caddy mentality that overwhelmed official Ireland last week. Bring on the National League, the League of Ireland, even the English Premiership, so that we can get back to some real sport.

An Phoblacht Magazine

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