28 June 2007 Edition
If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again
The media chorus about stamp duty might have failed to make an impact during the election campaign, with Fianna Fáil only being prepared to make a small change in relation to first-time buyers, but that's not stopping the same media from renewing the fray.
Last Sunday, the Sunday Independent informed us (and the Greens) that they (the Greens) were demanding further moves on stamp duty. In fact the further moves were demanded by the Sunday Independent, which used a comment by Dan Boyle that the Greens had been unable to get their own proposal for help for older people trading down in the negotiations for government, but hoped to be able to raise it sometime later on.
There was no demand at all from the Greens, merely an explanation of how they had only got part of their policy adopted in the negotiations.
Then the Sunday Business Post added to the theme with another specious story claiming that Finance Minister Cowen was coming under Dáil pressure to close off stamp-duty loopholes.
Closing off the misuse of these loopholes by developers would be an important step, but there is no pressure on Cowen from Fine Gael or Labour.
The point of these stories, which have only a tenuous relationship to reality, is to keep the stamp duty issue burning in the hope that eventually the government will have to submit to the combined media pressure.
It's not just the Sunday papers, of course, that keep on rehashing old lines. Our old friend the paper of record was back on the high moral ground this week frothing at the mouth at the news that Beverley Flynn had settled her legal costs issue with RTÉ.
Ms Flynn, of course, is a firm champion of the builders' interests in Fianna Fáil circles, and is one of the team when it comes to the world of finance and speculation.
But while the Irish Times dislikes Fianna Fáil's builders' connections, it has repeatedly refrained from discussing the political issue underlying all these themes. The reason, of course, is that the paper of record supports these rightwing policies: it would just like somebody else to bring them in.
What's at stake is not a genuine concern about ethical behaviour or whatever: it's just an old fashioned argument between inherited money and self-made money. To put it another way, it's an argument between those who did the robbing themselves and those whose grandfathers did it for them.
The Times inherited their money, but have an innate belief that if they just show the voters what a corrupt shower Fianna Fáil are the voters will turn against them.
Time and again, this doesn't happen, but that doesn't stop the Times.
Indeed, an even better example was given when journalists quizzed Finian McGrath about his deal with Fianna Fáil. The Times didn't ask about co-location, or private healthcare, or any other issues of policy: their concern was – would Finian stand by Bertie if the going got tough at the Tribunal.
Finian failed to give an unequivocal commitment to accept moral direction from the Irish Times and laughed instead.
Whatever about his deal with Fianna Fáil, laughing at the Irish Times seems to be the best response.
RTÉ's new series on the criminal gangs and their feuds and sordid murders had all the hallmarks of a series that would play to the gallery of the hang 'em, flog 'em brigade, throwing in a bit of dirt as well.
The first programme was a welcome surprise to some extent then. Dealing with the 'Westies' in Blanchardstown, it chronicled the short, sharp, brutish lives of the thugs involved, with very little glamourisation.
It even began by contextualising the rise of young criminals to the disadvantage experienced in areas like Sheepmoor and Mulhuddart, but soon got frightened of a genuine social examination preferring to fall back on the gory accounts of who shot whom and when.
Still, community activist Gerry Lynam was able to make a valid point that no matter how much money such people may temporarily have, it's no way to live – or die.
But why can't RTÉ do a proper programme, examining the real roots of the crime problem and bringing forward a discussion on how the community can be strengthened to fight off the gangs and save future generations of young people form the same sordid fate as suffered by Shane Coates and Stephen Sugg, buried under a housing estate in Spain?
The point is that RTÉ is mortally afraid of any discussion that might raise the spectre of empowering local communities. Much better to keep it all shallow, and leave the power of decision and control to those who have shown that they can't and won't change anything.
For RTÉ, the criminal gangs, like the poor, are always with us.