Over the past few days, there’s been a social media outcry by Sinn Féin supporters that their party candidates in the election are not getting equal air-time with their political opponents. They’ve even created a chart showing the major news bulletins on RTÉ, with a line through those that failed to include a Shinner. The claim is that RTÉ is taking attacks on Sinn Féin about such matters as Thomas Murphy and the Special Criminal Court as part of their total air-time, and so disadvantaging them.
However, this outcry appeared to hit a bump last night when Vincent Browne’s show on TV3 came from Louth, Gerry Adams’s constituency, and Browne passed scathing comment on the absence of Gerry Adams, who’d been invited to participate. Browne pointed out the contradiction between Mr Adams complaining that he and Sinn Féin were frozen out on air-time, yet the party leader didn’t take advantage of an opportunity to appear on his show.
There a number of points worth making here.
- Browne is right – there is a contrast between SF’s complaints about exclusion on RTÉ and Gerry’s decision not to appear on Browne’s TV3 show.(His running mate, Imelda Munster, did appear.)
- However, let’s remember there’s a difference between being excluded and choosing to exclude yourself. I can’t become King of England or join the Orange Order because I’m a Catholic. The fact that I wouldn’t accept an invitation to become King or an Orangeman doesn’t invalidate the injustice. In the same way most of us would condemn a golf club that refused membership to women; the fact that many women wouldn’t want to join said golf club is irrelevant.
- Had Gerry Adams appeared on the TV3 show, what would have been discussed? Well we know the answer to that from Vincent Browne’s promise a day or so earlier – and from the opening of last night’s show – that he planned to grill Mr Adams on the subject of Thomas Murphy. I expect I’m not alone in seeing the case of Mr Murphy as a massive red herring which has nothing to do with the south’s election and should have been sent to the red herring graveyard long ago.
- As I say, Gerry Adams’s running mate Imelda Munster was in attendance at the show and I expect (I stopped watching after the first fifteen minutes) she was willing to discuss Sinn Féin policy in general and its immediate relevance to the Louth constituency.
So in fact the exclusion charge against RTÉ remains valid, regardless of TV3; and Adams was probably sensible to give Vincent a miss, since Browne clearly was intent on a ding-doing about matters that have nothing to do with the election (Vincent said he would also have quizzed Gerry about IRA membership. Zzzzzzz…).
A final point: today’s Irish Independent has a front-page headlines about an “orchestrated” social media attack by Sinn Féin on RTÉ and Miriam O’Callaghan in particular over non-representation. It’s only when you read further down that you realize the story is referring to the 2011 election, not the current one. Change and decay all around we may see but the Indo never fails to perform.