Activists for political and social democracy in Ireland under British rule have always done so at the peril of their lives.
Think Derry in October 1968 and January 1972 or any part of the freak six-county statelet. Persons feeding the satraps of the British State or the lesser statelet with information putting pro-democracy activists and their community in harm’s way often themselves came to a sticky end.
That was the way for centuries. Informers were feared, hated and despised and mourned by few.
But misinformers were, and are, legion, and the most punishment they can expect for their dissemination of falsehoods are inclusion on the British Honours lists. knighthoods, peerages, university chairs and cucrative sinecures,
I’ll give you one example.
In May 1981 THE TIMES report of the funeral of Bobby Sands opened with the allegation that all the fatalities arising from the disagreements in the North of Ireland during the previous 12 years had been suffered by Protestants andinflicted by Republicans.
In February 1982 the Press Council adjudication on a complaint lodged by myself was published. No mention of
this was made by the BBC then or in the 40 years since then. That same February evening I turned the TV on
to see the then Editor of THE TIMES, Harold Evans, awarded tha accolade “EDITOR OF THE YEAR” by his fellow London editors (including Editor-In-Chief, Conor Cruise O’Brien, a former fellow-traveller of my own on the Hill of Howth tram, whose former opinions I had admired).
About three months after the adjudication, in a co-ordinated attack on Ken Livingstone, the Daily Express and the Daily Star and the Daily Mail repeated, verbatim the falsehood. An elderly man in Birmingham,after contacting me, took the Express and the Star to the Press Council, which took another 9 months to publish a condemnation of the papers.
I myself took the DAILY MAIL to the PRESS COUNCIL , which funked the issue because the lie had gone out under the name of Northern Ireland Secretary. Sir Humphrey Atkins.
Shortly thereafter the Press Council was renamed the Press Complaints Commission, Atkins was promoted to the Peerage and appointed to the Commission.
There was a change of rules. If Atkins was to repeat his lie, any complaint of mine would be ineligible. The lie had been about the IRA, and I was not a member of that well-meaning body of men and women.
Anyhow Sir Harold Evans fairly recently joined Humphrey Atkins, Conor Cruise O’Brien and may be shovelling coal with the Father of Lies.
But the need to nail disinformation is a real one now.
Which is why I propose to give you presently easy access to other pieces I have published .