The blog post I placed on this site yesterday, carrying the text of Catherine Murphy’s comments in the Dail about billionaire Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, went viral shortly after it appeared, and today scored the highest number of hits since thebrokenelbow.com was launched in 2011.
That tells me that there was a huge appetite by the Irish public for this story, a desire to know just what it was Ms Murphy had to say about Mr O’Brien and what this revealed about corruption in business and political life in Ireland.
That task should have been undertaken by the Irish media – newspapers, radio and television – but it wasn’t. Instead it was left to a small number of writers active in social media to do a job that the mainstream media should have done.
In the case of this site, that task was made easier by virtue of the fact that it is written out of the United States and protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment which safeguards free speech. I wish to make it clear however that if thebrokenelbow.com was produced in Ireland, the same article would have appeared.
Apologists for the failure of the Irish media to perform its duty, are pointing to a High Court injunction which forbad any reportage of the Denis O’Brien allegations and claiming that this injunction overrides Dail privilege. In consequence, they say, this prohibits any reporting of Ms Murphy’s Dail speech.
In other words a rich businessman who can hire expensive lawyers has more rights than the elected representatives of the Irish people. And the Irish media meekly accepts that. Shame on them.
An earlier generation of newspaper editors would, I suspect, have bridled at this restriction and reported Ms Murphy’s comments on the grounds that the Dail ranks higher than any court in the land any day. But this sort of response was absent in the media of 2015, beaten down as it has been, by years of censorship and self-censorship.
The consequences of this cowardice go way beyond the suppression of Catherine Murphy’s Dail speech. What whistle-blower in his or her right senses, for instance, would trust their fate or their freedom in the hands of such people?
The Catherine Murphy affair has exposed a fault in the Irish democratic system much more corrosive than Mr O’Brien’s financial shenanigans – that is the failure of the Irish media to do its job, to hold Irish society and its institutions to account.
A sad day for Ireland.