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2 August 2007 Edition

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Media View

‘The Times’ they a changing, but far too late!

Last Tuesday’s Irish Times commentary on the end of the British Army’s so-called Operation Banner in the Six Counties was truly extraordinary. In its editorial the Times said that British army’s role and activities in the North had fuelled nationalist alienation and directly boosted the growth of the IRA.
“The British army became part of the problem because of its assigned role in support of the status quo”, opined the paper of record.
On the opposite page to this groundbreaking Times editorial, columnist Fintan O’Toole said: “After its very early role as an emergency fire brigade, the army did more to feed the flames than to quench them......Militarily and ideologically, the army was a player, not a referee...It arrived with a colonial mentality, viewing Northern Ireland as another field for the operations it had run in Malaya, Kenya, Aden and Cyprus and identifying Catholics as the suspect population.”
All this is astonishing stuff for a newspaper that, through decades of the conflict, was an integral part of an establishment media system in Ireland which, day after day, propagated that the IRA and the IRA alone was the problem in the Six Counties.
This supine adherence by much of the Irish print media to a pro-British line, the use of self-censorship and the the abject failure to seek out the views of ordinary nationalists and republicans in the Six Counties was an important buttress to the even more blatant Section 31 state censorship and misrepresentation of the conflict which was employed at RTÉ.
This all-pervasive atmosphere of media manipulation was as much a part of the British counter insurgency strategy in Ireland as was anything else.
Who knows how sooner the conflict might have been ended if the Irish media had actually upheld its clear responsibilities to report all of the facts and challenge the British and Irish Governments on their policies?
The dissemination of misinformation was a key obstacle to greater understanding of the causes of conflict and their resolution.
Now, with the benefit of all the heavy lifting already done by those who built and consolidated the peace process and with the British army itself admitting its failures in the North, the Irish Times changes its tune. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing.
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A report this week from the Bank of Ireland described the 26 Counties as the second richest country in the world.
As a result, The Irish Examiner indulged in unrestrained celebration of how successful we are and the vast wealth we have accumulated. A couple of references to the need for the less well-off to benefit as well were tacked onto the very end of the paper’s editorial. The Times couldn’t be bothered putting it on the front page.
The Irish Independent took a different line. “Anger as gaping gulf in wealth revealed”, was the front page headline. It went on to outline out the “dramatic rise in the number of children begging on the streets”. Its editorial criticised government policy for not bringing about a more even distribution of wealth.
The Times admitting the truth of Britain’s role in the North and the Independent supporting the redistribution of wealth. If this keeps up there won’t be a need for An Phoblacht but I suspect normal service will soon be resumed.
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Finally, a word about Imad Ghanem. You won’t have heard of him. You will probably have heard of Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist held by Islamic extremists in Gaza for four months before being released following a global campaign for his release and repeated calls from all sides in Palestinian society for his freedom.
Imad Ghanem was one of the organisers of the demonstrations for Johnston’s release in Gaza and was himself a journalist, working as a cameraman for a Palestinian news organisation. The day after Johnston was released, 5 July, as Ghanem filmed Israeli soldiers invading Gaza at the Al-Bureij refugee camp, they opened fire and shot him.
As he lay injured on the ground, they shot him again. Then, for good measure, as he was being carried away by rescuers in some sort of sheet they opened fire again, forcing his would-be rescuers to drop Ghanem and flee. Finally, Israeli Special Forces destroyed a Red Crescent ambulance as it moved to pick him up.
The International Federation of Journalists called the shooting, “a vicious and brutal example of deliberate targeting of a journalist.”
Unsurprisingly, Israeli Defence Forces Major Avital Leibowitz saw it
differently saying: “He was a legitimate target, you can’t wait to see whether he pulls out a gun or not.”
Lest there be any confusion the 21-year-old, who has lost both his legs as a result, was of course completely unarmed.
Graphic footage of the entire incident is available on the Reuters website but it has yet to be broadcast on the BBC or RTÉ, both of whom rightly devoted hours of coverage to Alan Johnston’s abduction. Don’t hold your breath.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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