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14 June 2007 Edition

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Media View

Discussion of real issues and choices avoided

Media speculation on the post-election possibilities in the 26 Counties has concentrated entirely on the arithmetic of the various options.  There has been no discussion whatever of the strategic or policy choices facing the different parties.
In the case of the Greens’ efforts, of course, the media just simply did not know what was going on, and was reduced to speculation about potential policy differences.
That didn’t stop the Sundays from pretending that they had some kind of inside track, with the expected features on “Timetable of the Talks’ Breakdown” and so on.  Unfortunately, it was obvious that not one of these accounts was based on any real knowledge; no journalist had gone back to the office proclaiming that he or she had found out what happened: instead, the editors told some unfortunate to write the mantra as the editors wanted it written.
And so they did; but none of them it seems know anything about the Greens or the sort of people who are members of that party – and this left the media floundering in obvious disarray.
Nor was there any attempt at analysis of where the different parties stood in relation to government formation.  As regards Sinn Féin, the media just heaved a collective sigh of relief that the Establishment had ruled them out.  And on to next business.
But the stated reasons given by the parties – especially Fianna Fáil – are patent nonsense.  The economic policies of Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin might well prove to be incompatible, the differences on Europe and neutrality might well prove to be insuperable, but until they were tested in negotiation nobody could really say for sure.
The real reason is that Sinn Féin has not joined the Establishment and is not committed to preserving the status quo while tinkering around on the edges.  The Civil Service, in particular, will never forgive Northern nationalists for their temerity in not lying down and letting the unionists walk all over them and in not letting the middle class SDLP speak for them, and will never forgive Southern nationalists for standing by their Northern brothers and sisters and raising the fundamental issues of Irish nationalism in a modern and challenging way.
But there were still a few other scores to settle.
The Sunday Independent, as is now openly admitted, was called to task after Fianna Fáil had a private meeting with Sir Anthony O’Reilly (yes sic, that’s what they call him) and explained that attacking Fianna Fáil might leave that party dependent on Sinn Féin.  Sir (sic) Anthony understood that danger and told the Sindo to give over its open criticisms and row in behind the soldiers of destiny.
But now that the deed has been done, and Fianna Fáil is more or less guaranteed a return to power, the Sindo can return to its own favourite themes – and right up the top is Stamp Duty.
The Sindo is not very pleased that Brian Cowen refused to yield to their Stamp Duty campaign, ceding only an abolition of the duty for first time buyers. The Sindo duly returned to the fray with a bizarre article arguing that Cowen’s stamp duty plan would allow “rich millionaire divorcées” to avoid the tax.
As it is, “rich millionaire divorcées” are already treated as first time buyers, subject to certain conditions, and they are a very minor part of any taxation structure.  Mind you, if the Sindo wants to propose a scheme to make such people pay fair tax, then fair play, but alas there was no such discussion in the Sindo pages.
Neither was there any discussion of the fact that the Sindo’s campaign for the abolition of all stamp duty would have benfitted not only “rich millionaire divorcées” but rich millionaire non-divorcées as well.
Well, that’s what you expect from the Sindo.  Pretended moral outrage at the rich getting away with it while avoiding all discussion of how to really make them pay.
But did we really expect the Paper of Record, the Irish Times itself, from its sanctimonious perch in Tara Street to descend to the Sindo level?  Maybe not, but Liam Reid jumped to Madam’s orders and pinched the Sindo story almost word for word, pretend moral outrage for pretended moral outrage and added the weight of the drainpipe to the gutter.
The point is that republicans should beware of articles in the established press that might seem to be challenging a bias towards the rich, when the Establishment is only concerned with that bias being even stronger and more direct.
For one thing they will avoid is real discussion of real issues and choices.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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