15 June 2006 Edition
Media View by John O'Brien
Poor Michael McDowell
That was heart-rending stuff from Stephen Collins in last weekend's Irish Times. Poor Michael McDowell, with the "Opposition parties scenting blood" in "an example of adversarial politics at its brutal best!"
'Bad show, chaps' seems to sum up Collins' attitude.
Collins, of course, is the man who wrote that book about the PDs and How They Broke the Mould! This was a hagiography of Dessie O'Malley, and why not if that's your thing? But Collins got so carried away by his subject that he included some ludicrous side-comments about the PDs' "high principles". They are supposed to have refused to let people join at the beginning who were only careerists and not "inspired by the party's ideology."
This from a party which is currently scouring the country for "big names" to stand for them in the next election, just like Tom Parlon did in 2002. Their biggest coup so far is Colm O'Gorman, the One In Four spokesperson, who dithered apparently between Labour and the PDs - an insightful comment on both parties.
But Collins didn't have to have a crystal ball to see the PDs' opportunism, for even at the beginning they rowed in Michael Keating, former Fine Gael Mayor of Dublin who is now wanted by British police on fraud charges.
Collins doesn't believe in "adversarial politics at its brutal best", so he delicately avoided all mention of the criminality associated with Michael Keating's name and which the bold Michael will not deal with in the English courts. Can an Irishman win justice there?
But what was most riveting about Collins's piece last weekend was how little discussion he indulged in of the actual issues. After a cursory mention of who was lining up to have a go at PD hero McDowell, Collins completely failed to mention what arguments they were using in their vengeful campaign. And of course he was unable to evaluate them, good, bad or indifferent.
The reader was left - if he knew nothing about politics - to assume that a faultless McDowell was being abused for being, well for being McDowell.
No harm in that, I say. But Collins, true to his anti-republican convictions, couldn't write an article about McDowell's dire performance on the child rape issue or the seething anger among Fianna Fáil backbenchers about his performance, without attempting to divert attention to the real culprits: Sinn Féin.
Unfortunately, Sinn Féin couldn't be held responsible for McDowell's mishandling of the protection of children, so Collins raised the old issue of Jerry McCabe and the RTÉ programme done by that paragon of objective neutrality, the former Workers' Party acolyte, Gerry Gregg.
Why hadn't Martin Ferris condemned the IRA? he wailed.
Thus in a week dominated by the fall-out from McDowell's incompetence and arrogance, which none of the other papers could bury because it was so blatant and public anger so palpable; the paper of record accorded McDowell 12 paragraphs and yet another attack on Sinn Féin which was twenty-one paragraphs long!
At least there was no sign of McDowell in coverage of the partnership talks - he doesn't do partnership: he just talks and lets others listen.
All the papers gave us a blow-by-blow account of the deal nearly being done, the setback in the deal, the recovery of the deal and so on.
They told us the headings of the issues to be discussed, but not a word about what was actually at stake - except for a bland assurance that "pay had been settled".
Not quite, of course. There is a little matter of democracy, with the members of unions having a vote. But don't hold your breath for any discussion of the issues, any counter-arguments about the deal or so on.
Freedom of the press, you see, doesn't mean free discussion. In fact, it doesn't mean discussion at all.