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9 August 2007 Edition

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Caligula’s horse

According to legend, at the height of his insanity the emperor Caligula, who ruled the Roman empire for a decade during the first century, appointed his horse to the Senate as a gesture of his contempt for the electoral process in Rome, such as it was.
It would be rude to suggest that the Taoiseach’s decision to nominate Sunday Independent columnist and former Kim Il-Sung supporter Eoghan Harris belongs in the same category. Perhaps it was because of the man’s incisive track record in having the vision to support the Peace Process from day one, and the courage to stand by his position?
“If we persist with the peace process it will end with sectarian slaughter in the North, with bombs in Dublin, Cork and Galway and with the ruthless reign by powerful Provisional gangs over the ghettos of Dublin,” Harris fearlessly predicted in 1996.
Then again, perhaps not.
Moving from one outrageous quote to another, there are increasing signs of desperation in Kevin Myers’ vitriolic outpourings in the Irish Independent.
Last Friday’s column, dealing with the Corrib gas dispute, was vintage work, reliant entirely on ranting hyperbole, neglecting to provide a single fact, a lone statistic or the most trivial of arguments on the merits or otherwise of the issue. He does have a simple solution though.
Referring to Shell to Sea protestors he wrote, “I hate to criticise a multinational, because generally speaking I am a great fan of multinationals (they being the basis of our present prosperity) but I have to say that Shell has been scandalously remiss in not employing someone to bump off a few of these fellows.”
Myers, for all his attention-seeking, is not a stupid man and is well aware of the role Shell played in bringing about the executions of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni people in Nigeria. Their crime was, much like the people of Rossport, to stand up to Shell’s devastation of their local environment and theft of their local resources.
As less and less attention is paid to his increasingly tired and rehashed columns for the Independent, expect increasingly more outrageous attempts to get attention.
Along with the Daily Mail, one of Myers’ paymasters, the Daily Telegraph has gone on the offensive against Channel 4 following a controversial Dispatches programme last Monday night entitled Britain Under Attack. Interviewer Phil Rees has attracted the criticism because of a number of interviews conducted with Islamic extremists over the course of the programme where they outlined their theological justification for the use of violence against the West.
It made for intelligent, thought-provoking viewing and the arguments of the extremists were more than challenged by Muslims leaders who disagree with their interpretations of the Koran. The critics also seemed uninterested in the fact that far more extreme material is widely available on the internet for any to see, and without the counter-arguments being put by moderates.
But amid all the abuse from the Tory press, one of the more interesting parts of the programme was ignored. Rees is shown attending a conference organised by, and for, security and intelligence experts to discuss why Muslims born and raised in Britain are being attracted to extremist groups.
Theories put forward include brainwashing, indoctrination by radical Imams and even the farcical notion that they do it as a form of teenage rebellion. What was missing from the entire conference, Rees observed to his surprise, was any suggestion that British and American foreign policy could have played any role, however small, in the radicalisation of some Muslim youth.
It is a suggestion unlikely to appear in the sterile commentary of the Mail or Telegraph.
Jennifer Anne Bena Princess. Michael Doyle. Joshua Lee O’Sullivan. John Ogbeide. Four children who were under the age of five when they joined the dozens of children, mostly foreign nationals, who have disappeared in Ireland over the last five years.
This week, the media returned to the Madeleine McCann case through a combination of a slow August news month and a couple of new developments. A sighting of Madeleine was reported recently in Belgium and a bottle she might have drank from is being tested for DNA. The main suspect’s house was searched again recently.
Local papers in Portugal are now reporting unverified rumours that Madeleine’s blood might have been found in the apartment and the Evening Herald reported on Tuesday that an Irishman now claimed to have witnessed the abduction.
At one level there is nothing wrong with this. The more attention there is on finding a missing child the better. The points have been well made about why Madeleine’s case has caught the public imagination in a way that so few other missing children cases have.
On the first Friday of every month at 11.50pm RTE 1’s An Evening Prayer shows pictures of images of missing children in Ireland for 60 seconds.
It compares poorly with the round the clock coverage provided by Sky News and the rest of the British and Irish media, yet the pain and trauma of the families concerned is no less. I am not arguing that less attention be given to Madeleine’s case, but perhaps a little more to those not fortunate enough to be remembered.

An Phoblacht Magazine


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