Henry and Malachi – telling it like it is?

“Anyone who disagrees with the top cabal is suddenly transformed into a class traitor, unreliable, drunk / mad, lying irrational scumbag who must be shunned by decent society”.
That’s taken from a comment on sluggerotoole.com today. It’s the kind of comment you get from someone looking at powerful governments throughout the world and throughout history: the way in which governments firmly in charge make sure they stay that way, by labelling opponents as crazies and so discrediting anything they may say about anything. 
Except this particular comment isn’t talking about a government. It’s talking about a party  – Sinn Féin. So  if that’s true, how do Sinn Féin manage this trick of demonising opponents? They don’t have anything like the same media power as their opponents. Think of the main Irish newspapers – The Irish News, The News Letter, Irish Times, Irish independent, Irish Examiner, Belfast Telegraph. Leave aside what they frame as political news and how they frame it, and concentrate on their columnists, their writers of what is now called ‘op-ed’ pieces. With one exception – Jim Gibney in The Irish News – I can’t think of a single columnist who isn’t hostile to Sinn Féin. Mind you I don’t habitually buy papers any more, so I tend to rely on what I find online. So if I’ve been missing something I’ll be happy to hear about it. But it does seem to me that the tone and content of newspapers on this island is well over 90% anti-Shinner.
Take the Gerry Kelly/Carál Ní Chuilín incidents last Friday. There is video of the incident which shows Gerry Kelly assuring people of the area that the police vehicle that has passed is going to pull in and talk to them and particularly to the boy’s mother. When this doesn’t happen, Kelly tries to get another police vehicle to stop and talk. The upshot is, Kelly is carried some distance on the front of a PSNI vehicle and  Ní Chuilín is hospitalized.
The commentary on this incident in the Belfast Telegraph is interesting. There are two op-ed pieces – one by Henry McDonald, one by Malachi O’Doherty.  Henry’s is headed ‘Would the real Sinn Féin please stand up?’  In it he is critical of the DUP, but his main criticism is for Sinn Féin: one part of it in the person of Martin McGuinness  who is projecting responsible partnership to Barack Obama; another part is in the person of Gerry Kelly, reassuring grass-roots in on-the-street incidents that it is concerned for them.”For McGuinness, Kelly and Sinn Féin, heads are constantly twitching in opposite directions”.
Malachi’s piece is entitled “What did Gerry Kelly think he was doing?”  He argues that Sinn Féin scored an own goal by publishing their video of the incident, because sympathy for Gerry Kelly and Caral Ni Cuilean is lost when people see the incident. Kelly’s efforts to get the police vehicle to stop are denounced as the actions of someone “who should have had more sense than to be there”.  He speaks repeatedly of Gerry “barking” at the police vehicle to pull in. “He [Kelly] sees no contradiction between his presumption of the right to bark at the police and the legacy of opposition to political policing”.  He concludes that “the party itself, in releasing the video, has provided the evidence which damns him”.
Twitching, barking: maybe a clue is contained in those two words. Henry talks of the Sinn Féin neck “twitching” as it tries to reconcile Martin McGuinness commitment to power-sharing with street protest and Gerry Kelly.  Frankly, I don’t see the contradiction. If political opponents are prepared to share power and both parties work for the common good, that makes sense. It makes equal sense that Sinn  Féin’s MLAs should be doing all they can to maintain calm at crisis points created by Orange Order marching, and that they should insist on the police explaining actions that are inflaming the situation. But clearly that’s not the way Henry and Malachi chose to present the situation. 
The one thing that neither op-ed piece mentions is the SDLP’s Alban Maginnis. He also appears in the video and is clearly supportive of Gerry Kelly’s actions and attempts to avoid public disorder. In other interviews on radio the next day he confirmed that support. This, from a man and a party who are emphatically opposed to Sinn Féin politically. 
I take off my hat to Alban Maginnis for his presence at the scene and his honesty in response to what happened. It’s odd that both Henry and Malachi forgot to mention him in their pieces. 

18 Responses to Henry and Malachi – telling it like it is?

  1. Malachi O'Doherty June 27, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    You’re right, I should have mentioned Alban but space was tight. The key question is whether he would have done what Gerry did i.e. stand in front of a police vehicle and demand that it stop.
    I’ll ask him myself next time I see him.
    As for using charged descriptive words like ‘barking’; I could have used others like ‘whispering’ or ‘soothing’ but clearly the guy was jabbing the air with his finger and vocalising voluminously in tones suggestive of rage and impatience.
    I think he was in the position of Orwell confronting the Elephant. He had raised the expectations of the crowd that he could demonstrate his power over the police and the police had let him down. He had nowhere to go but to confront more assertively or whimper away – though actually he did have an alternative. He could have crossed the street and spoken to the police on foot and asked them the same question: who is in charge here?

  2. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    Shock,horror!Jude Collins praises S D L P politician.What’s happening to the world?!

  3. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    An SDLP MLA has said he was very concerned for Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly during an incident involving a police Land Rover in Belfast.

    Alban Maginness said he thought Mr Kelly could have been seriously injured during the incident, which followed the loyalist Tour of the North parade.

    Mr Kelly was carried on the front of the PSNI vehicle for a short distance.

    Mr Maginness said it was a “very ugly situation” that had the potential for serious disorder.

    Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Monday, Mr Maginness said: “For the first time in my political career, I had grave concern for the welfare of Gerry Kelly.

    “I did think he would be injured and seriously injured. I do think it was inappropriate for the vehicle to drive off in the way that it did.”

    Unionist politicians have criticised Mr Kelly and his party colleague Carál Ní Chuilín over the incident, saying he was obstructing the police.

    Sinn Fein said Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín was hit by the Land Rover as she tried to help Mr Kelly during Friday night’s incident. She was taken to hospital.

    Mr Kelly said he tried to stop the Land Rover in order to speak to officers who had arrested a 16-year-old, but claimed the officer drove off, with Mr Kelly clinging to the front of the PSNI vehicle.

    But Mr Maginness, who witnessed the incident, said Mr Kelly was not trying to obstruct police.

    The SDLP MLA said that when the PSNI vehicle drove off “the only option” Mr Kelly had was to “cling onto the front of the vehicle”.

    “I believe that all of us should learn lessons from that situation,” he said.

    “The issue is how do we deal with such situations in the future, in a way in which further disorder is abated?

    “We are coming into a very, very difficult parading season and we’ve got to get this right, all of us, including the police.”

    On Sunday, the SDLP’s Conall McDevitt said his party had “expressed deep concern about aspects of the police operation directly to very senior officers and we will continue to do so through the Policing Board”.

    However, he added: “We all need to show leadership and step back from seeking selfish partisan gain from parading or specific incidents.”

    The DUP’s Jonathan Craig said that the two Sinn Fein members’ behaviour had been “unacceptable”.

    Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister accused Mr Kelly of obstructing the police.

    The PSNI said the Police Ombudsman was investigating the incident.

    Meanwhile, the two men arrested following the Tour of the North have been released.

    A 20 year old was given a fixed penalty fine for disorderly behaviour, and the 16 year old who was the subject of Mr Kelly’s incident with the police has been released pending a report to the PPS.

    Taken from the BBC News Website

  4. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    Both writers appear to be stuck in 1970’s. Same old same old, it’s like reading NIO press releases from that time. They are part of the coterie of Belfast Telegraph writers who appear not to be able to come to terms with the electorate who are now voting for Sinn Féin in greater numbers.
    I can understand the rage of old stickies and SDLPers who see the current SF wearing their clothes. It must understandably drive them to bitter madness. Jude why did you not get some of that anti Sinn Féin money and kudos? The surprising thing is how SF have moved politically from no politics to where they are now and taking most of their support while adding greatly to it. The present Sinn Féin’s opposition is: Unionism the Dissidents the Southern / Northern media et all. In the face of all this why are Sinn Féin so electorally powerful. What does the electorate see Sinn Féin fulfilling for them? The consistent message that electorate get from the media is that they are either pernicious or naive for voting Sinn Féin.

  5. Jude Collins June 27, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Malachi – thank you for your thoughts – and it is refreshing to have a post that has a name attached.
    Now. I don’t agree that the key question is would Alban have done what Gerry did. I think the question is, was Gerry Kelly acting appropriately and/or were the PSNI acting appropriately. As to choice of language, you could have chosen a neutral word – like ‘shouted’, which is what I thought he was doing. There was quite a racket going on at the time. As for the Orwell analogy, I think it doesn’t really fit. I don’t think Gerry Kelly was setting out to perform some heroic feat – he was in front of the police vehicle and the police decided to drive on despite that fact.

  6. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Could you please outline the columnists in the Irish News who are hostile to Sinn Fein?

  7. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 3:10 pm #

    Are you suggesting that Sinn Fein should be immune from criticism?Would you prefer if all papers were like the late Daily Ireland,Andersonstown News or An Poblacht .Does the fact that Daily Ireland fell by the wayside not tell you something ?Presumably even dyed in the wool S F supporters like to have some choice in what they buy each morning and indeed some may even buy (horror of horrors) an English tabloid.Many young people may no longer buy a daily newspaper but rely for news online.

  8. Jude Collins June 27, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    Anon 13:17 – you have a point – I probably should have used the word ‘hostile’. Mea culpa. But in return, could you forward me the clippings of positive things said by VO columnists about SF? Assuming it isn’t too time-consuming a task…

  9. giordanobruno June 27, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

    Was Gerry Kelly trying to maintain calm? He was not doing a very good job. Perhaps a more sensible approach would have been to get the lad’s mother, bring her straight to the station and ensure he was treated properly.
    Was he arrested legitimately,or did the PSNI do something wrong? We don’t know.
    By making himself look ridiculous, he and Sinn Fein have taken the focus away from the breach committed by the parade.

  10. Malachi O'Doherty June 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    Jude, I didn’t mean that the key question governing the whole event is whether Alban would have done what Gerry did. But it is the key question for Alban.
    You are right when you say the issue is whether Gerry or the PSNI acted appropriately. It is arguable that both acted inappropriately – Gerry in trying to order a vehicle to stop, the driver in taking the risk of hurting him by nudging forward.
    If I had been the duty press officer for SF I would have given Gerry a bollocking for stealing the story. The party had a project in hand, which was to witness the behaviour of the parades and the police in relation to the Carrick Hill community. Next day nobody was talking about either; they were only talking about what a dork/hero/victim/twit (delete as appropriate) Gerry Kelly was.

  11. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Thanks for reply.What word would you use instead of “hostile”? Sadly or happily,I am not that much of an anorak that I keep clippings of Irish News columnists.It might be better if we identified the political columnists in that paper and then address their attitude towards S F.I can list F O’Conor,Brian Feeney ,Newton Emmerson ,Roy Garland,Alex Kane and Patrick Murphy.Are there others that you would wish to list?

  12. Anonymous June 27, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    The fact that a crowd of loyalist thugs attacked catholic homes was completely left out of the news and the Gerry Kelly stuff was made headlines so as to leave this out of the news.

  13. Jude Collins June 28, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    Gio – “By making himself look ridiculous”: an MLA is almost run down by a polie vehicle and you judge the person almost run down made himself look ridiculous. Mmmm…

  14. Jude Collins June 28, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    Malachi – yes I guess both could have acted inappropriately – or maybe both acted appropriately? Nah – that would hardly stand up. Re bollocking Gerry for drawing attention away: I got the impression that Henry McDonald was saying he did it so that he could draw the attention of the grass-roots to SF’s on-the-ground commitment. My guess is that is more likely than that they were unhappy with his taking away attention. There’ll be lots of future opportunities I suspect for responding to OO marches which don’t give monkey’s about the Parades Commission rulings or anyone else.

  15. Jude Collins June 28, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Anon 23:24 – I don’t pick up a daily copy of the VO – it’s ony v occasionally that I read something from it via nuzhound etc. But yes your list seems fairly complete. A word for them re SF: somewhere on the spectrum from critical to mocking. But as I say if you can give me an example where they commend SF, I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong. Must go now – have to cross the water to Cambridge to attend my daughter’s taking of the effing and blinding Hippopotamus Oath as Homer Simpson puts it. ..So expect a stony but not hostile silence for a day or two.

  16. Anonymous June 28, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    If you type, “sinn fein” site:irishnews.com into Google you could pull a list of all Irish News stories containing the keyword “Sinn Fein”. I found these in five seconds so perhaps beauty is where you find it. None of them portray Sinn Fein in a bad light. All in the Irish News, albeit a small sub-section of total output. I think it is human to see what you want to see, that’s a very common human condition. I am as guilty as anyone else, but you should change your mind if the facts don’t stack up.

    1. http://www.irishnews.com/news/loyalists-protest-as-sinn-fein-minister-attends-pool-preview-1238726
    2. http://www.irishnews.com/news/adams-urges-republicans-to-forge-links-with-loyalists-1247613
    3. http://www.irishnews.com/news/adams-sinn-fein-no-objection-to-photo-of-queen-handshake-1169035

    My argument would be the approach of MSM to people inside various parties; they train them ‘skinner style’. Then cull the ones they don’t endorse. TPTB manage parties externally and they are bloody good at it. Parties are not as important as people in our current system. In fact a certain degree of vitriol from the MSM will do Gerry Kelly the world of good on the ground. Whereas Martin McGuiness delivers par excellence in the, ‘I just want peace and justice for our children market’.

    These are positions, IMHO cynically played, by those best suited to leverage support from them.

    Meaningless unless they lead to good Government and better conditions for real people.

    Also wasn’t BMG financed by the British Government?
    Hardly a free press if granted by TPTB.

  17. giordanobruno June 28, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    I think the driver was indeed irresponsible and reckless, and should have stopped moving.
    But really, do you not think it dangerous to step in front of a police vehicle in a volatile situation?
    Or should all of us now do so if we don’t like what they are doing?

  18. Anonymous June 29, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

    Once again Jude,

    You don’t seem to like the Orange Order much? You mustn’t like the sight of the Irish Tricolour either given the fact one third of it represents Orangism. Maybe you ought to think up a replacement flag which reflects entirely your own politics and see if everyone else agrees on that.