19 June 2008 Edition
The blame game
THE wailing and gnashing of teeth from Tara Street, Abbey Street and Montrose could be heard all over the country last week as the ungrateful, ignorant loo-lahs of Ireland refused, in that time-honoured Irish tradition, to accept the judgment of their betters on the Lisbon referendum.
It’s not as if the mainstream Irish media had not done their best. The day before the vote, the Irish Independent pounced on the bad unemployment figures and Political Correspondent Fionnan Sheahan – whose wife is special adviser to Cabinet member Mary Hanafin – was overcome with excitement as he predicted that this would give a huge boost to the ‘Yes’ side. Sheahan opened a special report on the figures by stating that it was “Not the worst day for the Government to have record unemployment figures published”, and with impeccable logic advised that “the people who create jobs in this country keep on saying this country will be better off economically by voting Yes”. I dislike being unhelpful to enthusiastic and responsible journalists, as readers will know, but are these not the same people who have presided over record unemployment figures as described by Fionnan?
Next day, the Indo pleaded on its front page with readers to vote ‘Yes’ because (I swear it) the treaty would make the EU easier to understand, would fight drugs barons more easily, and would be more democratic.
That Wednesday also saw an exclusive lead story plastered across The Irish Times front page, headlined, “Main party leaders unite to denounce anti-treaty ‘dishonesty’” with similar headline ‘stories’ dominating its front pages in the days and weeks before the vote.
On the day of the vote, the Evening Herald actually told readers that “we must trust” our political leaders who “have the best interests of the country at heart” and that voters should plump for a ‘Yes’ vote. (The next day’s headline was: “It’s a resounding NO!”)
RTÉ also did its bit and its European correspondent, former Fine Gael member Seán Whelan, was especially cataclysmic in his predictions about Europe’s response to a possible ‘No’ vote from the Irish.
Journalists, even more than politicians, dislike being ignored or cheeked by those whom they lecture and their collective reaction to the ‘No’ vote was not a pretty sight, as Brian Lenihan might say.
RTÉ’s The Week in Politics devoted much time to the appalling situation whereby the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ sides are accorded equal time and scope to make their cases. With a straight face, Professor Richard Sinnott suggested that democracy might be better off if such exposure was divvied up according to Dáil representation, meaning the ‘Yes’ side would have had four times as much broadcasting time as the ‘No’ side.
Irish Times columnists were inconsolable as they picked over the entrails of a campaign in which the Irish people simply ignored the advice not only of their betters in the political establishment but, even worse, their own newspaper.
Stephen Collins warned ad nauseum of the “serious consequences” and denounced the “barefaced lies” of ‘No’ campaigners. However, Stephen’s best line was that the resultant erosion of links between Ireland and the EU would result in greater dependence on Britain – and this, the born-again republican Collins practically shouted from the page, “as we approach the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising”! Och, Stephen, I hardly knew ye.
IRISH TIMES thinker Fintan O’Toole described the ‘No’ vote as a result of the Irish dysfunctional relationship with politics, showing his former Stalinist (Workers’ Party) slip as he effectively described us all as mad and in need of political re-education.
And in typical Jesuitical and totally inaccurate fashion, he denied that the result showed a class division, arguing that sections of the middle class as well as working-class people voted ‘No’. Dear me, Fintan. Even this simpleton knows that a strong working-class, left-wing surge has an effect on the middle class. O’Toole is always anxious to disguise his essentially right-wing positions behind a veneer of socialist rhetoric.
Over at the Indo, James Downey was renting his garments in political dementia at the ‘No’ coalition “ranging from the impossible to the unspeakable” and he too had a go at those who would have us ruled by Britain. (Where are all these republicans when you need them?) The Sunday Tribune’s Shane Coleman lashed out at the “rag-bag coalition of traditional anti-EU leftie activists” and other villains. The Sunday Business Post’s anonymous Back Room columnist (anonymous because s/he is nearly always a government spin doctor) ranted on about Declan Ganley demanding neutrality (wrong) and Sinn Féin failing to do so (wrong).
There are two striking aspects to the media keening for the Lisbon Treaty. One is that, post referendum, most of these superior political commentators replicated all the same abusive and arrogant insults to the electorate that helped to lose the referendum in the first place. The second is their anger at the Government and political establishment for failing to secure a ‘Yes’ vote.
The lovely irony here is that the same hacks parroted the establishment line in the most brazenly one-sided abrogation of editorial responsibility, failing in the basics of journalism to inform their readers. The Irish media, whatever about the Little England media, lost all semblance of impartiality in promoting a ‘Yes’ vote but now choose to blame their political masters for their own failure. Ye were in it together, lads. Blame yourselves, not forgetting the mad Irish.