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2 July 2010

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Media View – It takes a whole Village to...


SINN FÉIN are not a “genuine” party of the Left in Ireland. They are ‘devilish, double-dealing Tories’.

It would be wrong to say that Sinn Féin are overlooked in the current issue of Village magazine, dedicated to looking at Ireland’s “Left”. They are mentioned loads of times. Thirteen, in fact, and yes I counted each one: 11 mentions came in one article about May’s Westminster elections.

Hats off first to Richard Boyd Barrett who is the only one of three columnists focusing on this theme who actually not just mentioned the party but also got the term “Devil” in the same sentence.

The Devil's deals

BB believes that by refusing to rule out who they would or wouldn't go into coalition with, Sinn Féin are “keeping their options open on doing deals with the Devil”. I have wondered was Richard an atheist but now we know the truth. The fundamentalist zeal is not all about opposing neo-liberalism; there is a little bit of Jesus in there too.

Joe Higgins, predictably, doesn't mention Sinn Féin, nor does Deirdre de Burca. You all know Deirdre de Burca. She used to be in the Green Party, was a senator, ran in the 2009 EU elections, had a billboard that misspelled thousands on a huge billboard as “thouands”, also had an article in the last edition of Village. Forgotten already?

Well, remember she wanted to work with Máire Geoghegan Quinn in her EU Commissioners’ team? John Gormely allegedly put a word in for Deirdre; Brian Cowen was going to talk to Máire. Máire said no, and then, and only then, Deirdre was reborn as a commentator on the radical left as she flounced off to vent her anger to any available microphone. I knew you remembered!

In their articles Richard and Joe both talk of “genuine” parties of the Left, leaving them in the critically important gatekeeper role of deciding who is and isn't genuine. No, of course, Sinn Féin aren't genuine! Keep up. Only the Daily Mail and papers published by Independent News and Media use Sinn Féin and the 'Left' word in the same sentence, and never in a good way.

Labour adoration

There is a Labour adoration theme permeating this edition of Village and so in the Leader column Eamon Gilmore is “perhaps the country's most talented politician”. There are three interviews with Labour spokespersons who “display competence, shrewdness and an acute awareness of the public interest”. Gosh, who knew? I felt unworthy to read on and got a little giddy, like sharing some intimate secrets between the Village scribes and their icons. I wonder do they text and tweet each other?

The focus on the Left in this edition of the Village boils down to a leader article, three columnists giving vent, all of whom see Sinn Féin and each other as competitors. Well, maybe not de Burca. She does have the look and sound of an ageing journeyman soccer player, out of contract and looking for a new berth before the new season starts. Not going to happen I think, Dee.

Then there are three interviews in the “Labour Special” and then six pages on the alternatives to “the existing political offerings” which, crossing a wide spectrum, finds no space to profile Sinn Féin . They do, bizarrely, find time to profile a very-long-deceased Clann na Poblachta!

Village times

Sinn Féin are mentioned in an article on the Westminster elections, illustrated by a picture of first and deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness meeting British PM David Cameron, with the caption “Spot the conservatives”.

Oh, it is all just a bit of fun. And, yes, Village have every right to look at the world mirthfully through the jaundiced eyes of disillusioned tiger cubs, now slaves to perhaps decades of debt and steadily-eroding public services. But why, oh why, do they need to be a slightly pink version of The Irish Times?

Why the six pages on what The Irish Times’s Renewing the Republic contributors wrote? Will it be Village's role to digest and summarise the Irish Times for us. Isn't that why we have RTÉ talk radio? (And they do it a lot better.)

And what did Sinn Féin do to the Village? Did Aengus snub you at a ‘Stop the Gaza Blockade’ rally? Was the queue too long to wait at a Gerry Adams book signing, or was the editor snapped in compromising pictures wearing an ‘Undefeated Army’ T-shirt? Interestingly, in one interview with David McWilliams, who is in hype mode for his one-man show, Miriam Cotton asks McWilliams:

“Would you agree that media coverage of the Left is (a) virtually non-existent, and (b) extraordinarily biased in a hostile and rather superficial way?”

This is not the whole question, or even half of it. I dropped off when Miriam started talking about “Stalinist socialism”. And aren't they incompatible terms? But it sums up the Village coverage. It is superficial and lacks depth, just like their website.


Which brings me on to a more wider debate about the Left which is happening not in the pages of the Village but online.

Cedar Lounge Revolution is one such portal. I don’t know why it’s called that but someone suggests it may have its origins in a Dublin northside watering hole called The Cedar Lounge.

But never mind that. There are a lot of people contributing to this site with interesting things to say and, gosh, some are socialist republicans. So get the FairTrade coffee or other non-exploitative beverage of your choice out and take 20 minutes to scroll through the entries on this blog.

Irish Left Review is another place worth investing regular time in, not least because there are links to our own Eoin Ó Broin but also because it’s worth reading and thinking about people who see the world similarly but not quite entirely the same way you do, which is the nub of where the Left falls out so often Ireland, in a repetitive break-up montage of ‘It's not you, it's me.’

For the producers of the Village, maybe you need some downtime and chill in the Cedar Lounge too. Who knows, it might change your point of view.


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