A Media Blackout? – Stephen Nolan & The Noah Donohoe Affair – by Donal Lavery

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” – Edward Murrow

“Media. I think I have heard of her. Isn’t she the one who killed her children?” – Neil Gaiman

Do you ever notice the so-called “elephant in the room” and it becomes more and more obvious to the point where everyone knows it but nobody wants to say it? Almost like an embarrassing elderly relative at a family party, you want to just put them to bed and talk about something ‘meaningful’ in life that is important for you, your children and your children’s children. Well, welcome to the latest round of the Nolan Show!

Born and bred in the hardened streets of the Shankill – home to a mixture of frightening murals, countless extreme gospel halls and the worst serial killers in Irish and British legal history – Mr Nolan must have had a colourful time as a youngster in “his patch” of Belfast’s sectarian divide. Educated locally, like myself, at Queen’s University, he began a career in radio and went on to bigger things via the British Broadcasting Corporation – where he earns a staggering salary approaching almost half a million pounds each year from taxpayers’ money to tackle the biggest issues of the day.

Throughout all his stints here and there in the media and public discourse, Mr Nolan appears to remain true to his roots, even bragging to Katie Hopkins that “a Shankill Road woman” like his mother would take her on. Fair comment would permit me to assume that he is most probably a Unionist, and there’s nothing wrong with that – I love many of my Unionist friends. However, in an ethnic “tinder box” like here it’s probably not so wise to have someone in such a controversial hot-seat all the time as such. A bit of religious and political balance would do wonders for the BBC and wider mainstream media.

To his credit, Nolan can be engaging and challenging to his guests and never holds back in asking them the tough questions. He has also spent time and effort covering subjects of huge ‘public interest’, including Children in Need events, to thunderous applause. But I am more interested now in what he has neglected to cover and that’s the crux of this article, including a ‘child in need’, albeit of justice.

Mr Nolan badgers anyone on his show with any remote connection to paramilitaries about issues of life and death dating back decades in some instances. Of course they are salient but it is the British government which is holding off on establishing a proper Amnesty process that would allow for genuine truth and reconciliation here regarding the killings and carnage, and I’m sure he knows that given his esteemed position. Such a transition would mean that not only could Mr Nolan stop ranting on and on and on about historical figures like Bobby Storey but he could focus more and more and more on people like Noah Donohoe – who, quite frankly, people care more about than whether the Deputy First Minister might have insufficiently social distanced enough at a funeral when DUP figures have done so at less solemn events – with no calls for their resignations!

The fact is, Stephen, people care and attend much more to the prospect that there may be, and I say “may be” (so as to avoid “contempt of court”) a sectarian gang of child murderers stalking some of the darkened streets of North Belfast, where a raft of sectarian attacks on Catholic youth have occurred prior to Noah’s death. You once highlighted in your documentary on the “Shankill Butchers” that such a gruesome depravity could potentially occur again – And with a spree of Loyalist attacks on Catholic youngsters in close vicinity to where Noah disappeared and died in; do you not think it is plausible enough to establish if we have the makings of another gang of twisted and pathological killers on the loose? Is it not the job of the media to speak “truth to power” in order to pressure the police to act properly and robustly? Should the media not echo the most seminal concerns of the population instead of harping on about Bobby Storey when the man has passed away, leaving behind a grieving family like any other?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike Stephen Nolan and Belfast and the six counties is full of outstanding journalists of various political complexions and perspectives – from Martin Dillon and Hugh Jordan to Dr Jude Collins (to give him his full, well-earned title) and Noel Thompson. I even enjoy reading Nelson McCausland’s articles, as it adds to the wider discourse. And when it comes to the ladies, they are even more talented and eloquent – from Patricia Devlin to Allison Morris. We have no shortage of able and right-thinking people to address and tackle the matters impacting our lives, big or small. The Troubles produced some of the world’s finest journalistic minds.

The problem, I suspect and it is only a suspicion, is that nobody wants to proverbially “kick a hornet’s nest” that may well unloose disturbing details and collapse faith in our very system of justice, as well as the government which oversees it. For three long years we had no Executive and in place of ‘Direct Rule’, we had a form of “divine rule” by Civil Servants. If you condemned anyone who is a drunkard, or someone who is sleeping around or taking drugs or failing to exercise due care all the time, then ladies and gents I’m afraid to say – You would have no government!

None of this is a “conspiracy theory”, as it has already been proven that the PSNI misled the public about both the community consultation in the vicinity and the leaflet they said they distributed (which they won’t even release to Fiona Donohoe) which was later found to be false. They told the world there was “no foul play” before an autopsy; they refused to warrant all CCTV in the area; they have not arrested nor questioned a single suspect. The only prosecution is of Jamie Shaw over his disturbing social media material on Noah. And to be clear, everyone smells a rat!

I support the need for an effective Police Service, as in any civilised country. You pay for the PSNI in your taxation and you have a right to both transparency and proper regulation of those in authority so they do not misuse it. I hope that Noah Donohoe does change the world in death as he would have in life, and one method of doing so would be for this case to become a far -reaching precedent that leads to widespread reforms of children’s rights as well as policing and justice – including the shadowy issue of handling informants or state agents, plus relations with Loyalist paramilitaries. To those in the media who still brand all of this a “conspiracy”, either put up and disprove it or shut up! It’s not going away and when the court proceedings really take hold everything can be reported on in open court. That is a legal right dating back years which no administrators can remove. Our finest journalistic brains, including Mr Nolan, must do their job on this matter of enormous ‘public interest’ instead of leaving it to a 28-year-old with limited life experience who spends too much time reading.

















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