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20 March 2008 Edition

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Media View

Being an artist doesn’t give a licence to exploit

I HAVE FOUND the Cathal Ó Searcaigh case most disturbing, not for the RTÉ documentary itself but for the baffling enthusiasm with which some of the country’s artists and ‘intellectuals’ have rallied round the poet.
In a letter to The Irish Times before the documentary had aired, a number of them said:
“Whatever statements or intentions are professed by the film-makers or RTÉ, some people may use this documentary to incite hatred against homosexuals. Had this documentary been attempted regarding a comparable heterosexual context, it would simply be a non-story.”
It’s a unique combination of absolute nonsense (anyone who thinks the show wouldn’t have been as big a deal with a heterosexual artist hasn’t been reading newspapers or watching TV for at least a decade), and it’s also a sly suggestion that homosexuals, rather than being treated equally, should be given some sort of special, protected status in Irish society where valid criticisms cannot be made for fear of inciting homophobia.
But the thing is, this isn’t about  Ó Searcaigh’s homosexuality. For sheer common sense it’s difficult to beat the reply from Claire Duignan of RTÉ in Friday’s Times.
“RTÉ rejects the accusation that this film is either homophobic or engages in stereotypical representation. The film is not about homosexuality... The film is about disparity of power and the sexual exploitation that took place within those unequal relationships.”
Being an artist doesn’t give you a licence to wander around the developing world as a sex tourist exploiting teenagers.
Well done, RTÉ. It’s always nice to see the public service broadcaster occasionally rise up on its hind legs and do something gutsy, if only for the novelty of it.

TRUER to RTÉ form however was the Prime Time TV interview last Thursday night with Gerard Hutch, whom the Sunday World refers to as ‘The Monk’. The whole exercise baffled me at the beginning. For a time it was hard to figure out why Hutch, who the gardaí claim to have been responsible for two of the biggest armed robberies in Irish history, was willing to be interviewed by Paul Reynolds.
Did he really expect the explanations for the Criminal Assets Bureau judgement of in excess of €2 million against him to win him the respectability Reynolds claims he was after? Did RTÉ think that, under Reynolds’s questioning, Hutch would break down and confess to the robberies on national television? Or was it just a cheap ratings exercise? The real message of the piece, however, came from two of the gardaí, one now retired, who had interviewed Hutch, both of whom blamed the right to silence for their failures to apprehend him.
Coupled with Reynolds’s strongly making the point that Hutch is guilty – despite the failure of the Gardai to convict him – the impression the casual viewer would be left with is that Hutch and his associates get away with their alleged crimes because suspected criminals have too many rights.
It’s an argument that’s dangerous in its simplicity. And considering the track record of the Garda in framing people and abusing the trust of the people they are supposed to protect, it will be dangerous in practice as well.

ACCORDING to reports in the European press, some MEPs have been diverting money intended for their assistants into their own pockets by claiming for more assistants than they actually have, or even when they don’t employ any at all!
The response of the European Parliament has been to launch an immediate, independent, far-reaching investigation of corruption. Or, as Pat Leahy in the Sunday Business Post puts it:
“Characteristically, the parliament has attempted to cover it up, reserving its threats of sanctions for those would reveal details of the scandal, rather than for those guilty of stealing from the European taxpayer.
“Although individual MEPs are not identified in the auditor’s report, the parliament has refused to release it.
“Only members of the Budget Committee who signed a confidentiality agreement were allowed to read the report, which is kept under lock and key in a room whose location has not been disclosed – the buried report in the secret room.”
The buried report in the secret room. Almost as hard to get hold of as a copy of the Lisbon Treaty.
Puts the ‘Don’t bother reading it, just trust us’ approach of the ‘Yes’ side to the Lisbon Treaty in the proper perspective. A few more articles giving an honest, critical look at the European Union wouldn’t go amiss in the next few months.

THE REDESIGN of the Irish Times has resulted in an improved, clearer lay-out and all-round better design but the most enjoyable part of the new look for me has been the Monday picture supplement, The Gallery. Published by the paper’s Picture Editor, Peter Thursfield, it’s one of the few opportunities for quality picture journalism in Ireland.
Last Monday’s cover photo and two-page spread to mark the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, along with a stunning centrespread from the Cashel Skyfest, were the highlights of what is one of the first positive changes in the Times as it has dashed to the right over the last few years under the editorship of failed PD Dáil candidate Geraldine Kennedy.

An Phoblacht
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