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13 September 2007 Edition

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Media View

Ireland’s Crawl

Hate to disagree with fellow columnists (as Matt Treacy will know) but the understandably deep antagonism to the establishment media of my comrade John O’Brien may have blunted his usually sensitive antennae to the central issue about Fr Michael Cleary and his child in Media View last week.
To say that Ross Hamilton was as much a victim of the media as he was of Cleary is to miss the central issue, namely the denial of a son by his own father. That the media should ‘indulge’ themselves in clerical bashing is predictable but hardly surprising and the low standards of the media surely does not mean that Cleary should not have been outed.
Cleary’s real crime was not against the Church but against his son, Ross Hamilton and the real hurt as well as anger displayed by Ross at last week’s RTÉ programme’s conclusion was more powerful than any posturing by journalists, self-indulgent or otherwise. That the bombastic Paul Williams should profit professionally and egotistically from the event is also predictable but his vanity was eclipsed by the compassion shown by Ballyfermot women who repeatedly told Ross that he looked like his father. Showing emotional intelligence, these women, despite their devout Catholicism, knew that Hamilton would prefer to hear this message more than any lionising or excusing of his father. They taught everyone a lesson in human values.
Incidentally, Cleary had media supporters, too. The Irish Independent’s Martina Devlin, perhaps in a cynical effort to provoke attention, told readers that Cleary had charisma and that he found a way of “shouldering his family responsibilities without rocking the boat”.
Sometimes it’s difficult not to seriously dislike journalists who can spew out an argument, any argument, just to fill space with a ‘provocative’ angle, which in this case was crass as well as downright insulting, intellectually and morally.
It must also be said – even if it’s by media hypocrites – that the reason for Cleary’s cruelty towards his son was a result of his attachment to the power that his status as a priest gave him. To admit his paternity would have probably destroyed that stature. Cleary deserved all the odium he got and more.
Having disagreed with one republican columnist, I’m sure that another, Matt Treacy will welcome an argument about the imbalance in sporting coverage in the mainstream media  and the marketing impulse behind this trend. This is not another dig at the Dublin football hype but rather a complaint about the class bias in the RTÉ and Irish Times hysteria over the Rugby World Cup.
There are places in Ireland where a rugby ball is never seen but the South Dublin obsession with Drico and the super ‘goys’ who wear the green (and yet whose matches do not feature the national anthem) is an example of middle class narcissism. Six days before an All-Ireland final and in the midst of the most important two international games by the Irish soccer team, The Irish Times sports section devoted three pages to to ireland’s rugger buggers (as well as more space to the other Rugby World Cup matches); just over a page to the Ireland-Slovakia soccer match and a short column to the upcoming Cork-Kerry All Ireland football final. The previous Saturday’s IT sports section showed the same ludicrous imbalance with rugby completely dominating the GAA just six days after the All-Ireland hurling final, the day before the under-21 hurling final and a week before the Cork-Kerry final which, incidentally, did not merit a single mention. Even the Ireland-Slovakia soccer match, due next day, was completely overshadowed by coverage of the minority sport that is rugby.
There is method in this apparent editorial insanity and it’s not simple snobbery - although that undoubtedly comes into it. The Irish Times readership, as its advertisers and marketing people constantly emphasise, is dominated by what is called the ABC1 category. That’s rich bastards and and middle class managers and professionals to you and me. It’s the target market for IT editorial and advertising executives and it’s where the real money is in ad revenue and sales. The same people loudly protest that the notion of class divisions is an outmoded concept, stubbornly adhered to by lefties stuck in the past. But when it comes to their own financial interests the same calculating marketing experts know where the loot is.
It’s bad enough being exploited by the rich but when you can’t even get decent sports coverage because the middle class are at play, you just know that it’s time for revolution. Ireland’s crawl, indeed!

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