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3 April 2008 Edition

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Media View

Paul Williams: Gutter TV at its worst

TV3’s Dirty Money series concluded this week with Paul Williams of the Sunday World indulging himself in his favourite pastime of pedalling the most lurid and lying propaganda about Irish republicans.
This was gutter TV at its worst and Williams wheeled on former Labour Party leader Ruairí Quinn and one-time Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes to attack Sinn Féin at will. Pigs and grunts spring to mind but far more culpable were former Justice Minister John O’Donoghue and current Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, who crawled into the gutter to roll in the muck with Williams.

A totally naïve viewer taking the hour’s diatribe at face value would have gone to bed believing that Sinn Féin is funded from drugs money and other proceeds from “the IRA’s criminal empire”, that the IRA was entirely responsible for the conflict since 1969, claiming thousands of lives, and that the IRA is also responsible for armed gangland crime today because this is “the legacy of the Troubles”. It is doubtful that very many people believed it all but that is not the point. This is part of the long-running campaign by Williams, the   and the rest of the Tony O’Reilly press empire to stifle the growth of Sinn Féin in the 26 Counties. It is their long war of lies and they hope the drip effect will do the damage.

THE depth of lying insult was reached when Williams stood in front of the mural of Bobby Sands on the Falls Road to accuse republicans of profiting from drugs money.
The IRA’s “criminal empire” was used to “fund Sinn Féin’s vision of a socialist republic”. Dukes trotted out the moth-eaten accusation that Sinn Féin (“the richest party in the country”!) could not have funded its offices other than through criminality. Political parties based on careerism find it impossible to acknowledge that republicans have done so much through voluntary, unpaid commitment. But that little fact could never be allowed to get in the way and facts were in very short supply when Williams ventured into ‘Bandit Country’.

It was a cacophony of clichés. South Armagh is “Sicily without the sun”, a “killing zone” where the IRA “killed Protestants”.  It is full of “dark rat-runs”, all leading to the home of Thomas Murphy. But the substance, such as it was, concerned Kieran Byrne, who ran a bureau de change and was jailed for money-laundering. No connection between Byrne and republicans was established – because there is none – but the location of his money-laundering racket was enough for Williams to build his entire lying edifice on it.
“Narco-terrorism” had to be thrown in, of course, with footage of another former Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, making his pre-election allegations, and shots of the Colombia Three. Even the corrupt Colombian justice system could not sustain the attempt to link the three to “narco-terrorism” and, of course, McDowell’s anti-republican rants failed to get him re-elected. But these are just facts which could never be allowed to get in the way of a Paul Williams story.

WILLIAMS’S mission is not to fight organised crime. His career has been built on sensationalising it, right down to the stupid names he gives the criminals.
The Sunday World (among other media) exploits public fear and fascination with organised crime in order to sell advertising, newspapers and books. It has nothing to do with real crime prevention or law enforcement. Williams is a very doubtful ally indeed for the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The type of journalist/Garda relationship involving the likes of Williams serves to foster individual ambition within the force and to value publicity above real results. The CAB should not fall into that trap. When the anti-republican political element is added it further undermines policing. The focus is taken away from what communities are suffering in the real world of anti-social behaviour, drug-dealing and violent crime.
Dirty Money was fronted by Paul Williams, sponsored by the Sunday World and screened by TV3. Less-well-known are the film-makers. They are Praxis Pictures, which is run by former RTÉ producer and Workers’ Party propagandist Gerry Gregg. Senator Eoghan Harris is a director of the company.

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