6 August 1998 Edition

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A hierarchy of death

by Laura Friel

The inaugural Damien Walsh Memorial Lecture, organised as part of FĂ©ile an Phobail, was held in the Dairy Farm Centre in Poleglass where 17-year-old Damien was working on a Youth Training Scheme when he was shot dead by a loyalist death squad in 1993.

Addressing several hundred people, British journalist and former editor of the Mirror, Roy Greenslade described the `hierarchy of death' with which the British media deal with deaths arising out of the Anglo-Irish conflict. Greenslade compared the lack of coverage which routinely follows the sectarian murder of Irish nationalists, like Damien Walsh and Bernadette Martin, with the kind of media attention which accompanied the deaths of casualties arising out of IRA operations, such as Warrington.

This differentiation, Greenslade argues, shapes the British public's perception of the conflict which in turn is underpinned by the British government's political agenda in the North.

The fact that in over 30 years of conflict the media has almost never strayed from the government's agenda is not a conspiracy, argued Greenslade but more a collective acceptance of a dominant ideology. In a rigorous condemnation of the notion of ``balance'', described as ``the biggest lie of all'', Greenslade recalled a radio broadcast he heard in Donegal during the recent Drumcree crisis, in which the broadcaster read out a document, seemingly a policy document by Sinn Fein in which anti-Protestant sentiments were expressed. An irate caller to the programme pointed out that the document was a bogus document which had been circulated by the British during the Tan War of 1918 -1920. The presenter defended reading out the document on the grounds that on the previous day he had read extracts from the Orange Order Constitution which expressed anti-Catholic sentiments. The fiction of British propaganda used 70 years ago was being offered as a counter balance to the fact of sectarianism within the Orange Order's constitution of today.

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