Fearless and original journalism

I see the VO today is maintaining its usual creakingly-high standards of even-handedness . On p 18 Patrick Murphy lays into Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin, and on p 19 Newton Emerson lays into, um,  Sinn Féin and several others. It’s what we media people call balance.

Murphy has a truly enquiring mind: he asks sixteen questions in the course of his article. Questions like “Was Sinn Féin apologising on behalf of the PIRA?” and “Since the PIRA no longer exists, who made the decision to apologise?” and “When was PIRA’s war downgraded to a mere conflict?”  Gerry Adams gets hammered for daring to apologise for the death of Garda Jerry McCabe : “An apology for some deaths suggests that all other deaths were justified”. Now there’s an interesting inference to draw.  If I’m late for an appointment and apologise for my tardiness, it suggests I don’t give a damn about any other occasion on which I may have been late. Mmm.  A bit later he admits that “if Sinn Féin had not apologised it would still have been criticised” which pretty well sums the matter up, wouldn’t you say?  I have this Animal-Farm-type memory of a time when republicans were urged to turn from violence, express regret and commit themselves to democratic politics. Now that they’ve done so, they’re accused by the likes of Murphy of being “politically expedient”. Hey ho. Damned if you don’t and damned if you do.

But the heart of Murphy’s onslaught is given in big black type in the  middle, in case you’d miss it in the body of the article: “Despite the undoubted bravery of some PIRA actions, and the criminal brutality of most of them [ I wonder what criteria he uses to distinguish one kind from another?], it was a futile escapade which betrayed the civil rights movement, handed the political initiative to the British government, institutionalised sectarianism and abandoned the concept of the Irish nation”.

Yes, I can see that. Clearly if someone’s taking a different path from you they must be betraying you. And of course the setting up of the Assembly was a British initiative and Sinn Féin were to blame for that. And yes, Martin McGuinness and his mates have been acting in a very sectarian way up on the hill and we haven’t heard a peep out of them or Gerry Adams about an Irish nation, a border poll – not  even a half-peep. I don’t know how they can look at themselves in the mirror of a morning.  But at least we’ve now had their actions laid bare and explained by this adept analysis. The abandoned nation owes a debt. Thank you very much, Mr Murphy.

And Newton Emerson on p 19? The first half of his piece simply bursts with witticisms, even if they are a bit soggy. The second half? Probably more of the same but  I’m afraid by then I’d nodded off. I do hope Mr Emerson doesn’t come looking for an apology.

29 Responses to Fearless and original journalism

  1. Anonymous February 2, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    I thought you didn't read the Irish News any more since its “best columnist ” left!!

  2. Anonymous February 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    Perhaps you could point us to a paper that has the required standard of even-handedness ?The Andersonstown News maybe?!!!

  3. Jude Collins February 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Anon 14:05 – Sometimes, like greatness, one has the VO thrust upon one…

    Anon 14:48 – No, I wouldn't see the Andersonstown News as being neutral. But its existence does in some small way counterbalance the unremitting anti-republican stance of the mainstream Irish newspapers, north and south. Or maybe you can point me to one (other one other than the A N, which isn't really mainstream anyway.

  4. footballcliches February 2, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Ah, Newton Emerson. I did have the pleasure of walking up to him and in my best Dennis Pennis impression said:

    'Newton, just one question. Why aren't you funny anymore?'

    He wasn't too impressed but I laughed…

  5. Anonymous February 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Are you really saying that the Irish News is unremittingly anti republican ?I would have thought that its news coverage is pretty fair and its columnists include one Jim Gibney who could hardly be described as a critic of Sinn Fein.However you do seem to be exercised increasingly by any criticism of S F.Do you think they are above reproach ?Would you consider Noel Whelan's opinion piece in the Irish Times unfair?Most non partisans would consider it a reasonable summation of the facts and would not disagree with his comment about the”Sinn Fein leader's convoluted sense of reality”.

  6. Anonymous February 3, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Speaking of “Fearless Journalism”,what's your take on Marian Price and her indefinite incarceration/internment,no comment on what the judge said to Justice Minister David Ford,you know the man I am talking about that “moderate ,middle of the road bleeding heart liberal” leader of the Alliance Party,well according to the judge Ford's decision not to grant her leave to attend her dead sister's funeral was “unlawful, unreasonable, and irrational”,Marian Price was subsequently allowed a few hours release to grieve her sister's death.Ford asked for a publication ban on the judge's condemnation of his great self.The Northern Ireland Justice Minister rebuked in a court of law by a judge and this isn't a topic of conversation on any political blogs,you would rather talk about golfers and poets,no wonder the bastards get away with what they do when there is no accountability.

  7. giordanobruno February 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    It may be that a 30 year campaign of bombing killing and maiming your fellow countrymen might not be consistent with the concept of 'cherishing all the children of the nation'
    Perhaps that is what he means by betrayal?
    As for futile, well are we living in a United Ireland?

    You laughed at your own (admittedly hilarious) putdown? You must be a blast at parties.

  8. Jude Collins February 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Anon 22:50 – You're right, J Gibney is a republican voice in the VO, one day a week. And you maybe can cite others? I can't. Of course I don't think SF are above reproach. But as I say, they're bombarded on every side by critics, so I think it makes sense to have the occasional voice talking in the opposite direction. I haven't read Whelan's piece. If I do and it is pro-republican, I'll be in shock…Ah. I see. I've just re-read the last bit of your comment. It's another attack on SF. And your point is?

    Anon 08;36 – I'm completely opposed to the internment of Marian Price and I've said so more than once. However, I have it from a usually reliable source that Marian was offered but didn't accept a chance to attend her sister's funeral. If she was denied the chance to do so, it's outrageous. And if you think I blog largely on golfers and poets, you haven't been reading my blog too often.

    Gio – If you see the IRA campaign as running counter to the 'cherishing of the children of the nation equally', you'll have to see the people who wrote the Proclamation as acting counter to its words as well. If that's what Murphy had in mind, I'm not surprised. He never struck me as being particularly interested in the Easter Rising, much less approving of it. Re 'futile;, no, we are not living in a re-united Ireland- well spotted. On the other hand, we're no longer living in an Orange state that was stiff with discrimination, gerrymandering and where the police was the armed wing of unionism. I wouldn't call that achievement as completely futile.

  9. Anonymous February 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Jude,why do you think they “are bombarded on every side by critics”?Could it be that there is an occasional whiff of hypocrisy from Sinn Fein on some of there utterances .Many would feel that Gerry Adams in the Dail this week gave any potential critics plenty of ammunition .Whats your take on Brian Feeney in the Irish News?He may well lambast S F from time to time but all the other parties in the Assembly get a periodic touch as well.Is he specifically “anti -republican “?

  10. Anonymous February 3, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    I think the point is that the media should in some way be reflective of society at large. SF have more or less grown in every like for like election over the past few decades since taking electioneering seriously – which indicates a) a substantial portion of the population are increasingly supporting them and b) the said increasing section obviously don't see things the way a lot in the media do re sinn féin – so stop ramming anti-republicanism down their throat and/or patronizing them for not seeing how terrible republicans are. The public are a lot more tuned in than some of the more pretentious in the chattering classes will ever believe, but the plebs are stupid and need told the “correct” way of thinking …obviously.

    The facts are that when political commentary from media sources is analysed, only a tiny fraction is pro republican, certainly vastly smaller than the % vote share SF have garnered.

  11. Anonymous February 4, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Why was the Daily Ireland newspaper so unsuccessful if there is a market for a pro-republican viewpoint in the media?

  12. Anonymous February 4, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    There's nothing anti-Sinn Fein in Emerson's column – he's actually defending them on the organised crime agency. Bit puzzled here Jude.

  13. footballcliches February 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Thanks Gio,

    I'm the funniest man I have ever met 😉

    But seriously, Emerson is a busted flush, an unfunny man who 'politicos' think is funny. He was fairly funny when he did the Portadown Times and has ran out of material and comic value now, he just comes across as whiney, much like yourself at times.

  14. footballcliches February 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Further Gio, I laughed more at the sullen look on his face as I caught his attention in front of a crowd and said my put down loud enough for a few people to hear.

    What's the point of something being funny if it doesn't make you laugh yourself? Do you go around telling jokes that don't even make you laugh?

  15. Anonymous February 4, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Newton Emerson here – I wondered if footballcliches wrote 'in person' as a figure of speech… Apparently not. Yet he did not make this remark to me in person – he sent it as a tweet, several months ago. Whoever he is, he is having problems telling the internet from reality…

  16. Newton Emerson February 4, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Newton Emerson again, I think I'm logged in now (this website is as awkward as you are Jude). While googling for footballcliches' tweet, I found this blog thread where he boasts about sending the tweet.
    I hope we can all find this funny, at any rate.

  17. giordanobruno February 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Could you tell he was doing a Dennis Pennis impression in his tweet?

  18. Anonymous February 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Now that you have been mentioned in Jude's blog ,would you care to comment on his main point about criticism of poor Mr Adams in the media (specifically the Irish News)?Or is life too short!

  19. Mick Fealty February 5, 2013 at 12:13 am #


    Everything in NI takes an age to change. It always has. It is odd that there are not more SFers and DUPers banging down the doors of the IN or the NL to get weekly gigs.

    The problem is both parties have the same thing in common, they are centralists (as opposed to centrists, like the lovely Birgitte) who cannot handle criticism terrible well. So no one, who is in any way independent of mind, lasts.

    It should eventually change when old journos move on, the party leadership changes and things begin to be achieved; hopefully something more than that old 'winding up the prods' that keeps working so excellently well.

    No real journalist likes to be told what to think. But a new generation of young voters may eventually make the grade and explain to the rest of us for once and for all, 'what on earth is going on'.

  20. Jude Collins February 5, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Newton – I am totally devoid of awkwardness – except maybe physically.
    Mick- I can't speak for the Andytown News but I know for a fact that the late Daily Ireland sought high and low for a unionist columnist with a singular lack of success. I think the VO and the NL and the BelTel should all be asked at six-monthly intervals for the percentage of pro-union and pro-republican perspectives offered by their organ. I find mainstream media that are one-sided (invariably anti-republican) irritating; I find the fact that they would claim even-handedness laughable..

  21. Jude Collins February 5, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Anon 17:11 – I think B Feeney is a generally fair commentator, in that he points to failure where he sees it. And of course SF like other parties has its failures/weaknesses. I'm critical of the response to Adams's apology because by any reasonable standard it should be welcomed and not attacked. I also think it's symptomatic of the mainstream media here – go after the Shinners wherever possible. As another comment points out, the media attitude is in marked contrast to voting patterns – i.e., public thinking.

  22. Newton Emerson February 5, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Anon 23:01 – as another anon pointed out, I didn't actually criticise Sinn Fein in the piece mentioned in this blog, although Jude says he feel asleep while reading it so perhaps that is why he didn't notice. But if his objection to my piece is not based on its content, what is it based on?
    Your wider question about balance in media commentary is interesting – the disproportionate dearth of pro-SF commentators is outweighed only by the almost total dearth of pro-DUP commentators, but as far as I'm aware this is not for lack of trying to recruit them. The DUP-media disconnect is particularly bizarre – and Robinson won't even speak to the Irish News, for some unknown reason.
    The Irish News prints Jim Gibney but a party officer is obviously inclined to print the party line, which can make for dry reading. The Belfast Telegraph printed former SF candidate Chris Donnelly but that didn't work out. The factor being missed here is that a columnist is primarily in the entertainment business – I'd be amazed, and discomforted, by the idea that a columnist swings a single vote in Northern Ireland – and party stooges are poor entertainment. SF in particular seems to attract a 'true believer' type that makes material highly predictable from the opening line. At least with Gibney you know you're getting the official party line, which has genuine value.
    'Balance' is for the immature. And broadcasters, for some reason.

  23. giordanobruno February 5, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    It is really down to the family to say if the apology is welcome or not. Not you or I or the media.
    A carefully worded apology too,regretting the consequences of the deed rather than the deed itself.

  24. Anonymous February 5, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    …aye but the great unwashed are idiots and should be treated as such though …clearly

  25. Anonymous February 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Given that the Shinners have the majority of the Nationalist vote for the last few years,should there not have been a greater market for the late Daily Ireland ?Perhaps the real answer is that even committed Republicans are resistant to being fed the party line on a regular basis.As Newton points out ,columnists are to some extent in the entertainment business and there has to be some variety and light relief for a paper to reach a wider audience .Despite Jude's strictures on the Irish News,it seems to tick most of the boxes for the broad “Nationalist family”. I think I'm right in saying that even “An Poblacht” had to go online because of decreasing sales!

  26. Anonymous February 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    I'm a shinner yet find it difficult to disagree with most of your points.

    Another twisted slant on things is that the perceived anti-SF bias in the media has hardly done SF much damage in real terms electorally. In fact one might argue the fiercer the onslaught in the south particularly in recent times, the more a certain demographic has been likely to gravitate further towards SF – maybe we doth protest too much – in fact, the more I ponder the notion …keep up the good work lads! 🙂

  27. Jude Collins February 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Anonymous 11:58: 'There's nothing anti-Sinn Fein in Emerson's column' . Oh really? You must have got a different edition of the VO. The one I got half-way through has, in the first section he talks about education trends reversing in “the 32-county republic. Perhaps this question is being ignored because, like Seamus Heaney, nobody really believes it will happen'. Sounds a bit like a dig at SF's central policy to me (I'll ignore the mind-reading claim in the statement). When I cast my weary eye to the second half of his piece, I see he talks about SF trying to make the SDLP look ridiculous: 'Clearly, abandoning organised crime does not mean you cease being organised'. And in the final section, he has a fairly tired dig at Michelle O'Neill introducing 'special branch surveillance' and SF acquiring 'a drone capability'. I'm trying to figure how that's 'defending' SF, but my head is hurting…

  28. Anonymous February 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm #

    “And of course Sinn Fein like other parties has its failures/weaknesses” .Jude,at last an admission that the Shinners may on occasions get it wrong.You'd never have thought it from your blogs over the years.Perhaps in the future ,you might take time to analyse some of these failures/weaknesses.

  29. Jude Collins February 6, 2013 at 8:48 am #

    Anon 23:30 (why do people were online masks?): No need for me to weigh in – the queue is very very long and I have this funny feeling I might find you in it somewhere…