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17 July 2008 Edition

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Media View

Saturday night not quite right

IT MAY sound churlish but Miriam O’Callaghan’s treatment of the Hunger Strikers who appeared on Saturday Night with Miriam was, if anything, too soft focus for my taste.
Showing a degree of respect for the ordeal undergone by Laurence McKeown, Raymond McCartney and Mary Doyle was a welcome change. It reflects O’Callaghan’s relative independence from the standard RTÉ mindset about republicanism, although she felt compelled to lob in the usual question about any guilt the trio might feel in relation to the armed conflict.
Unfortunately, this obligatory line of inquiry took up much of the few minutes’ time she devoted to one of the most profound, fundamental and heroic episodes in the last century of Irish history, something that later generations are already beginning to acknowledge. And it is a measure of the respect that the Hunger Strikers inspire that, even after decades of being shunned and even insulted by RTÉ and other media, the studio audience gave them due applause.
Unfortunately, the programme could only devote a few minutes to plumbing the depths of the experiences and personalities of the three extraordinary people on the programme – an impossible task.
Anybody fortunate enough to hear McKeown and others elaborate, modestly but factually, on their monumental acts of self-sacrifice at public meetings in the ensuing years have come away uplifted and imbued with mixed feelings of pride and humility. One felt privileged to share the same space as these personalities and even the most detached, non-political observers cannot deny that they were touching history in their own lifetime.
That RTÉ now feels able to deal with the Hunger Strikers without pillorying them says something about the effects of the Peace Process but it is also recognition by programme makers of the huge and growing respect that they command amongst Irish people.

FROM the inspirational to the demeaning. Your columnist forced himself to read a week’s outpouring of the sewage spilled daily by Irish Independent columnist Ian O’Doherty  who courageously socks it to Muslims, Palestinians, Travellers, prisoners, gays, feminists, anti-racists and virtually anybody outside the world view of the 30-something, middle-class, western macho man.
Like some LA cop cracking clichéd jibes with the boys at a barbecue, O’Doherty lampoons the more difficult attempts at reverse discrimination, scouring the internet to unearth examples of what reactionaries everywhere like to denounce as ‘political-correctness-gone-mad’.
In just one week to last Friday, O’Doherty managed to dish it to most of those groups who experience discrimination in their daily lives with the type of venom that helps to create racial hatred, among other phobias.
On Monday, O’Doherty sneered at ‘Traveller culture’, remarking that this is an “oxymoron”, and he dismissed Pavee Point as whingers. What a guy!
On Tuesday, Ian was helpless with indignation because prison authorities did not simply steal confiscated TVs from prisoners, choosing instead to retain them for return to their owners on release.
Wednesday’s readers were treated to a diatribe against British nursery minders who were training children not to be racist and whom he insulted as being “Thought Police”.
On Thursday, the brave columnist lacerated gays in Bristol for wanting to maintain a secluded public area for their activities. And he also found time to abuse a section of the American black media for their exclusivity. On Friday, this scourge of hypocrisy everywhere had a go at those who disagreed with the notion that Africans were predisposed to genocide. O’Doherty’s absolutely clincher point here was that this white, western argument was mouthed by a Nigerian. That will surely silence all the whining lefties out there. How strange that O’Doherty can’t recognise another Uncle Tom when he sees one.
The Irish Independent has Kevin Myers to peddle the more British, Thatcherite view of the world and it has O’Doherty who pushes the more American variety of the same poison. Like a section of the sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll media types, O’Doherty and his chums like to portray themselves as hip and not at all Establishment. They enjoy posturing as somehow radical compared to the more orthodox centre-right views of The Irish Times and RTÉ, borrowing the arguments of those discredited American commentators who believe that western music conquered communism and that killing Muslims is the pursuit of freedom.
A requirement for Irish media columnists today is that they have a new angle, an unusual ‘take’, and even a slightly shocking view of society. Editors could easily find a wealth of this material on the Left but that would be a little dangerous and it would certainly be unacceptable to both editors and their proprietors. And so we are fed a diet of the increasingly hate-filled, Tory-type journalism that offends merely those groups who are most vulnerable as well as those political activists who defend them.
It’s ugly, it’s dangerous and, best of all, it is politically dead safe, despite the Hunter S Thompson image that O’Doherty likes to project.

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.
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