Monthly Archives: October 2015

How The Mainstream Media Got The Democrats Debate All Wrong

In the wake of the first Democratic television debate earlier this week, on CNN, the mainstream media, almost to a man and woman, declared Hillary Clinton the winner and a victor over her main rival, ‘democratic socialist’, Bernie Sanders.

My suspicion that this was a view fashioned by two factors – the inherent pro-establishment bias of the vast majority of the profession, as prevalent in America as it is elsewhere, and the herd instinct which drives them to congregate in large, safe groups for self-protection – appears to have been borne out by this interesting piece which has appeared on the Alternet website.

The facts, i.e. the results of focus groups and online opinion polls,  show that the MSM got it badly wrong and that in the opinion of viewers watching the debate, Sanders beat Clinton nearly everywhere. But the initial media verdict has quickly assumed the status of unalterable set-in-stone fact.

A few reporters are now factoring this reality into their analysis by adding the comment that “as well Sanders did well”  but the message nonetheless remains that in a contest between a centre-right Democrat with a history of war-mongering and pandering to Wall Street, and a figure who could happily take a seat in Tony Blair’s cabinet, the media will invariably plump for the former. Enjoy:

Bernie Won All the Focus Groups & Online Polls, So Why Is the Media Saying Hillary Won the Debate?

What the public wants out of a candidate and what the beltway press wants appear to be two entirely different things.

Who “won” a debate is inherently subjective. The idea of winning a debate necessarily entails a goal to be achieved. What this goal is, therefore, says as much about the person judging its achievement as the goal itself. Pundits are ostensibly supposed to judge whether or not a candidate said what “the voters” want to hear. But what ends up happening, invariably, is they end up judging whether or not the candidate said what they think voters wanted to hear. This, after all, is why pundits exist, to act as a clergy class charged with interpreting people’s own inscrutable opinions for them. The chasm between what the pundits saw and what the public saw was even bigger than usual last night.

Bernie Sanders by all objective measures “won” the debate. Hands down. I don’t say this as a personal analysis of the debate; the very idea of “winning” a debate is silly to me. I say this because based on the only relatively objective metric we have, online polls and focus groups, he did win. And it’s not even close.

Sanders won the CNN focus group, the Fusion focus group, and the Fox News focus group; in the latter, he even converted several Hillary supporters. He won the Slate online pollCNN/Time online poll9News ColoradoThe Street online pollFox5 poll, the conservative Drudge online poll and the liberal Daily Kos online poll. There wasn’t, to this writer’s knowledge, a poll he didn’t win by at least an 18-point margin. But you wouldn’t know this from reading the establishment press. The New York Times, the New YorkerCNNPoliticoSlateNew York Magazine, and Vox all unanimously say Hillary Clinton cleaned house. What gives?

Firstly, it’s important to point out that online polls, and to a lesser extent focus groups, are obviously not scientific. But it’s also important to point out that the echo chamber musings of establishment liberal pundits is far, far less scientific. It wasn’t that the online polls and focus groups had Sanders winning, it’s that they had him winning by a lot. And it wasn’t just that the pundit class has Clinton winning, it’s that they had her winning by a lot. This gap speaks to a larger gap we’ve seen since the beginning of the Sanders campaign. The mainstream media writes off Bernie and is constantly shocked when his polls numbers go up. What explains this phenomenon? Freddie DeBoer had this to say:

This morning, I’ve been pointing out on Twitter that the unanimity of pro-Hillary Clinton journalism coming from the mouthpieces of establishment Democratic politics — Slate, Vox, New York Magazine, etc. — is entirely predictable and has no meaningful relationship to her actual performance at the debate last night. That’s because, one, the Democrats are a centrist party that is interested in maintaining the stranglehold of the DNC establishment on their presidential politics, and these publications toe that line. And second, because Clinton has long been assumed to be the heavy favorite to win the presidency, these publications are in a heated battle to produce the most sympathetic coverage, in order to gain access. That is a tried-and-true method of career advancement in political journalism. Ezra Klein was a well-regarded blogger and journalist. He became the most influential journalist in DC (and someone, I can tell you with great confidence, that young political journalists are terrified of crossing) through his rabid defense of Obamacare, and subsequent access to the President. That people would try and play the same role with Clinton is as natural and unsurprising as I can imagine.

Many establishment journalists were in a hurry to declare Clinton not just the winner of the debate, but of the party nomination. One fairly creepy exchange between Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker and Alec MacGillis summed it up nicely:

 

“Pretend” there’s a race? Isn’t that sort of the whole point of democracy? To have as much debate and vetting as possible before nominating a potential leader of the free world? Matt Yglesias at Vox also dismissed this entire primary process out of hand:

It’s unclear what the rush is. The first primary is months away, yet they’re ready to call it based entirely on an ad hoc analysis of one debate. This tweet by Michael Cohen of the Boston Globe perfectly sums up mainstream media’s cluelessness:

Embedded image permalink

A “protest candidate”? If Cohen hasn’t noticed, the electorate is full of piss and vinegar and rancor, which is precisely why an otherwise obscure, self-described Socialist has risen in the polls the way he has.

But the question still remains: why the rush to write off Sanders? Why the constant gap between how the public perceives Sanders and how the mainstream media does? Why, most of all, would anyone listen to the very same pundit class that was wrong in ’08 and continues to be wrong in 2015?

Even Monkeys Know Unequal Pay Is Wrong…….

The Questions Eamonn Mallie Didn’t Ask Martin McGuinness…..

Domestic matters prevented me until now from fully watching Eamonn Mallie’s weekend interview with Martin McGuinness, who is currently the Deputy First Minister in the Stormont power-sharing government (temporarily in hiatus) but who is also known for an IRA career that spanned most positions in that organisation, from lowly Volunteer in the Derry Brigade to Chief of Staff.

the_look

(If you missed it, you can watch it here.)

Not that you would really know much about the full gamut of Martin’s IRA experience if you were dependent on that interview to educate you. True, Mallie did ask him, given his admission of IRA membership to the Saville inquiry, what it felt like to pull the trigger and send a policeman or soldier to eternity and whether, coming from a devout Catholic family in Derry, he had subsequently made peace with his God, or even himself. Interesting questions which the experienced TV hand diverted with ease.

But there was so much more unasked, both about his IRA career and his involvement in incidents and situations which raise really big questions about Martin McGuinness’ character and integrity which he might have had more difficulty responding to.

Whether this was due to the interviewer’s circumspection or the heavy hand of the legal department at Irish TV (whatever or whoever they are?) can only be guessed at.

Whatever the truth, watching Mallie grill McGuinness was a bit like seeing George Best being quizzed about his life in soccer minus his days with Manchester United, or his struggles with booze or broads. Or watching Babe Ruth being asked about everything except his batting exploits with the Boston Red Sox!

Until TV stations or other broadcasters have the gumption to ask the right questions to characters with a background like Martin McGuinness, I don’t really see the point of such interviews.

Until then, it would be far more honest for interviewers and TV stations to say something like this: “I know, Martin McGuinness, that you won’t give an honest answer to questions dealing with an IRA past that has propelled you into your current position. Let’s be honest you are Deputy First Minister only because you did the business as an IRA leader. But you can’t/won’t admit that because it is embarrassing and inconvenient. So I am not going to bother even pretending to ask the relevant questions.

“Instead I will ask you about Sinn Fein politics, whether you think Mary Lou McDonald really is a carpetbagger, your religion, your family, what you did on your summer holidays, the best dry flies to catch big trout in Co. Donegal, what it was like climbing Mount Errigal with Gerry, and what you like for Sunday breakfast.”

But if the IRA history of Martin McGuinness is going to be covered, it should be done properly, fully and truthfully. If so, then here are some of the questions that any self-respecting and honest journalist should pose to Martin McGuinness:

1) Is it true you were the Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA between 1978 and 1982 and that as military commander of the IRA you approved the assassination of Lord Mountbatten and the Warrenpoint ambush?

2) What was going through your mind, knowing of your involvement in the Mountbatten operation, when you met the Queen? Did you apologise for killing her uncle and did she say anything about it to you? Did either of you blush when you shook hands?

3) You have had to undertake what must have been uncomfortable and conflicting roles since the peace process began, roles that were unprecedented for an Irish republican with your background. You were the first to shake hands with the Queen for instance, the first to attend a banquet at Windsor Castle being another. Some of your former comrades have criticised you heavily for going along with this stuff (unlike Jeremy Corbyn, so far). Does it ever occur to you to ask why it is always you, and never Gerry Adams (with the recent exception of Prince Charles) who was sent along on such occasions?

4) Why were you chosen as Deputy First Minister at Stormont and not Gerry, who after all is your party leader?

5) You told Eamonn Mallie you accepted Gerry Adams’ claim never to have been in the IRA. But you make an equally implausible claim, which is that you left the IRA in 1974. People deride Gerry Adams for his lie. Why should they not deride you for yours?

6) In 1985, according to reports, you succeeded ‘Slab’ Murphy as Northern Commander of the IRA in anticipation of the Libyan arms shipments arriving safely in Ireland. You had been Chief of Staff but had been obliged to step down as a condition of you standing for Sinn Fein in the Prior Assembly election of 1982. Didn’t you feel the 1985 appointment was something of a step down, given that you had already once before occupied that office? So, why then did you accept this post?

7) As Northern Commander you were responsible for some of the most controversial violent incidents in the IRA’s recent history; these included the Enniskillen bombing, the use of human bombs, the Lisnaskea school bus bombing, the bombing of the Falls Rd swimming baths, the killing of the Hanna family and the killing of James & Ellen Sefton. Can I ask whether you did order or approve of these operations and if so, what was the political or military rationale in each case, given that the individual and cumulative effect was to weaken the IRA’s ‘armed struggle’ and strengthen the alternative peace process?

8) The family of alleged IRA informer Frank Hegarty say that you lured him back to Derry from hiding in England with a false promise that he would be safe. Assured by your words he came back and almost immediately was killed by the IRA as an informer. The RUC were on the verge of charging you with his murder when, according to one report, the British intervened in order to safeguard the peace process, and no charges were filed. If this story is true, and you lied to Hegarty to lure him to his death, what does that say about your character? What does it say about the British attitude towards the importance of your role in the subsequent peace process?

9) Throughout the years of the peace process you played the role of the hard military man, a role that helped to re-assure the IRA grassroots that the process would not lead to a sellout. The implication is that the rank and file did not fully trust Gerry Adams but had confidence in you. Do you accept this characterisation and how do you respond to accusations that you misled IRA members, for instance by assuring them that an IRA Convention would be held prior to the 1994 ceasefire, when in fact there was no Convention? If the accusations are correct, what does this say about your character?

I know that some, perhaps quite a lot of my erstwhile media colleagues will be shocked, even scandalised by the idea of asking such questions. But these will be among the questions that will concern future historians, accent on the word future. And perhaps they will want the answer to another question: why didn’t the Irish media ask the man these questions when he was alive, so at least there would be some response on the record. The answer to that question, as to the others I suggest, may be uncomfortable, to say the least.

Now Here Is The Real Fucking News!

Lord Carlile’s Other Government Job: Keeping Secrets Secret

If you look at the five photos below of the members of the new British Freedom of Information Commission, the guy in the middle might be familiar to you. He is Lord Carlile and if his name strikes a bell it is because he also sits on the Three Monkeys commission in Belfast which has been charged with finding a way to greenlight Sinn Fein’s re-acceptance by the DUP as a partner in government in the wake of the Kevin McGuigan killing.

Lord Carlile seems to be one of the establishment’s most favoured candidates for this type of job and his services are apparently in constant demand. While drafting new Freedom of Information regulations, he also does work for the PSNI/MI5 as the one-man court of appeal for judges, lawyers and the like who have had their police guards withdrawn.

And of course he will be expected to devise a form of wording to rescue the power-sharing government in Belfast, wording that somehow embraces two fundamentally conflicting propositions: that the IRA exists and killed Kevin McGuigan, but that the control freaks of Sinn Fein knew nothing about it.

He has got a similar job on his hands with the new Freedom of Information regulations, namely how to claim that the Cameron government is of course committed to less government secrecy while hatching plans to charge fees for FoI requests, the effect of which, naturally, will be to deter a lot of people from filing requests for secret information.

Yesterday’s embarrassing press conference, hosted by the FoI commission in London, as reported in The Guardian, does not bode well for those hoping for the truth about the death of Kevin McGuigan and those who killed him, ordered his death or gave approval to it happening. Journalists attending the commission’s very first press conference  were instructed not to report who was there or what they said.

Consider that a dry run for the Three Monkeys’ report later this month.

Freedom of information commission not very free with its information

Source reveals cross-party commission is mulling charging for FoI requests after bizarre parliamentary briefing that members insisted must be off the record

Lord Burns, Jack Straw, Lord Carlile, Dame Patricia Hodgson and Lord Howard
The five member committee is chaired by Lord Burns (far left) and includes (second left to right) Jack Straw, Lord Carlile, Dame Patricia Hodgson and Lord Howard. The Guardian is not permitted to disclose which members of the committee were present. Photograph: The Guardian/Rex

The government-appointed body reviewing the Freedom of Information Act has held its first official briefing – but journalists were asked not to disclose who was there or attribute what they said.

Sources at the Independent Commission on Freedom of Information meeting disclosed that the cross-party group will consider introducing charges for applications for information for the first time.

But officials at the bizarre briefing in the Houses of Parliament asked journalists to keep it “off the record” and not quote the individuals present, despite requests to the contrary.

The meeting, attended by six journalists, was held by the commission to launch a public call for evidence after being set up in July by the Conservative minister Matthew Hancock to decide whether the act is too expensive and overly intrusive.

The committee has been heavily criticised for being an establishment “stitch-up” to neuter the work of journalists, campaigners and members of the public.

The five-member committee includes Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, who is already on the record calling for the act to be rewritten; Lord Carlile of Berriew, who accused the Guardian of “a criminal act” when it published stories using National Security Agency material leaked by Edward Snowden; Lord Howard, whose gardening expenses were criticised after being exposed following FoI requests; and Dame Patricia Hodgson, the deputy chair of Ofcom, which has criticised the act for its “chilling effect” on government.

It is chaired by Lord Burns, the former chair of Channel 4 and a former permanent secretary to the treasury. Under the terms of the briefing, the Guardian cannot disclose which members of the committee, if any, were present.

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, is on the commission.
Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, is on the commission. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

At the briefing, sources close to the commission defended its members. “It was put together by the government. Members of the committee have been asked to be as open minded as possible. They are distinguished in their field,” the source said.

It was conceded by the source that the commission’s members had not submitted requests for information. “What is true is that most people who are on the committee have been the subject of FoI requests rather than made FoI requests,” the source said.

“Our aim is to be as open as possible,” the source continued. However, the committee source could not explain why the committee itself was not open to FoI requests and declined requests to publish transcripts of its meetings. Parties who wish to submit evidence with regards to the proposed charges for FoI requests have a deadline of 20 November to present their findings to the commission.

The source said he is confident that the commission can read all the evidence, discuss it, come to a conclusion, write a report, and print that report by the time parliament rises on 17 December, twenty working days after the deadline.

The source insisted that the commission has not come to any firm views and is open to go where the evidence leads. The source also said that Hodgson had “nothing to do” with Ofcom’s criticisms of the FoI act.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have made clear that they are unhappy that Straw and Carlile chose to serve. Both parties have pointed out that they chose to take part in a personal capacity and are not representing the views of their parties, which both believe the act should remain as it is.

There is concern that charges could be as much as £20 per request. Campaigners said that when Ireland introduced a €15 charge the number of requests dropped by almost a half and led to criticism from the country’s Freedom of Information commissioner. The fee was eventually dropped – though there remains a cost for appealing decisions.

At present, anyone can ask for information so long as finding it does not cost more than £600 in the case of a government department, and £450 for another public body.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: “We would be very worried about that. For most people a single charge for a single request might not be a problem, except for people on low incomes.

“But the problem is that many people legitimately need to make more than a single request.

“It would make the act inaccessible for individual requesters and small and medium organisations as well as for freelance journalists.”

Kunduz ‘War Crime’ – The AC130 Gunship In Action

As allegations surface that US forces deliberately targeted the Doctors Without Borders hosiptal in Kunduz, Afghanistan because a Taliban member was being treated there, it is worth looking at the AC 130 gunship which carried out the attack.

Here is the AC 130 in action:

How The Sunday Indo’s Assault On Hume-Adams Actually Aided The Peace Process

No-one who was around in April 1993, and in the weeks and months that followed the allegedly accidental – but more likely deliberate – revelation that the SDLP leader John Hume and the Sinn Fein President and IRA leader, Gerry Adams had been meeting for secret peace talks, can forget the reaction of The Sunday Independent newspaper in the weeks that followed.

Assuming that the aims of the talks were not about achieving ‘peace’, but to create a pan-Nationalist monolith that would trundle the Unionists into a united Ireland, the Sindo went into full scale offensive mode.

Hardly a weekend passed thereafter for at least a month or two without the paper publishing a series of violent and often offensive articles targeting Hume for his naivete, misplaced ambition, stupidity, gullibility and credulity for entertaining the notion that Adams and the IRA could be talked out of violence.

Leading the charge each weekend was Eoghan Harris, former RTE bureaucrat cum censor-in-chief, Workers Party idealoge and scourge of everything Irish Nationalist – but he was by no means alone. Some weekends The Sunday Indo could have wallpapered the average Irish living room with diatribes against Hume.

Eoghan Harris - "bombs in cork, galway and dublin if peace process works..."

Eoghan Harris – “bombs in cork, galway and dublin if peace process works…”

We know now an awful lot more about the reality behind these talks – and what absolute garbage the Indo had published. Hume wasn’t really talking to Adams, i.e. trying to persuade him to embrace peace; he was there to represent the interests of the Irish government and give whoever was in power in Dublin political cover to help deliver a deal that in principle had in large measure already been agreed. He was also there to provide the good housekeeping seal of approval to sceptics abroad, especially in Washington.

Nor were the talks leading anywhere near Irish unity; quite the opposite. The outcome of the process, of which the Hume-Adams dialogue was but a small part, would see the Provos accept the principle of consent for Irish unity, accept the legitimacy of the policing system in the North, allow the decommissioning of its weapons and the creation of a power-sharing government at Stormont in which Sinn Fein ministers would play an active part.

Most crucially, all this won, with Sinn Fein approval, the endorsement of the Irish people in twin referenda in both parts of Ireland, an act that could be said to supercede the last all-Ireland election, the 1921 UK general election which created the Second Dail, the last all-Ireland parliament, at least in name, and from which the IRA took its legal cum moral authority to use violence to eject the British from Ireland.

The Hume-Adams talks were part of a process that led not just to the end of the Troubles but, arguably, the eclipse of Irish republicanism.

But as I say, no-one knew any of that or could foresee all that would happen back then, least of all The Sunday Independent.

In the last few days that rather squalid and woefully misdirected chapter in The Sunday Independent’s history was revived, first by an op-ed in The Irish Times written by the paper’s then editor, and Eoghan Harris’ former wife, Anne Harris and some angry responses published on the ITs letter page by friends of Hume, including Sean Donlon, former Secretary to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and ambassador to the United States.

Anne Harris - editor of Sindo when assault on Hume was launched

Anne Harris – editor of Sindo when assault on Hume was launched

In her piece, Harris defended the onslaught against Hume thus:

What Hume, in the early stages of the peace process, did, was ask the Irish Republic to accept the IRA’s and Gerry Adams’s credentials on his say-so. The Sunday Independent, in sometimes furious debate, subjected those credentials to severe scrutiny.

An angry Sean Donlon responded, inter alia:

The Sunday Independent’s persistent and vicious attacks on John Hume were a serious mistake, an absolute disgrace and damaged the reputation of Irish journalism.

Another Hume fan, Sean McCann from Co Tyrone, recalled one of Eoghan Harris’ more embarrassing bloopers during the Indo’s onslaught:

Here is an instance of one such Sunday Independent “warning”, courtesy of Eoghan Harris: “If we persist with the peace process it will end with sectarian slaughter in the North, with bombs in Dublin, Cork and Galway, and with the ruthless reign by provisional gangs over the ghettos of Dublin. The only way to avoid this abyss is to cut the cord to John Hume”.

While it is very tempting to join in the baiting of the Indo, and to ridicule the ridicule-deserving Eoghan Harris, the perverse side of me – which some readers may have noticed is one of my abiding qualities – pokes my shoulder and points me in a different direction.

While the Indo offensive may have been, well offensive and ridiculously wrong, I would argue now that at the time, the attack on Hume was probably the best thing that could have happened to the still fledgling peace process.

John Hume with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness - Sindo's attacks helped forge pan-Nationalism and dampen Provo grassroots doubts

John Hume with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness – Sindo’s attacks helped forge pan-Nationalism and dampen Provo grassroots doubts

I say this firstly, because the Sindo barrage helped divert initial republican grassroots perplexity at the Hume-Adams process into a tribal rallying event.

Provo activist suspicion at their leader supping with their most scathing and dangerous Nationalist adversary quickly morphed into something much more benign: a need to defend the tribe, and their leader, from the Sindo – and also those in the British and Unionist camps who had taken up the Indo’s refrain.

Provo supporters were soon to be seen on the streets of Belfast and Derry rallying to the slogan: Support the Hume-Adams Talks! Any doubts and suspicions about the talks were soon submerged in a wave of tribal and party loyalty.

But the furious response of the Sindo to the Hume-Adams dialogue did more. It provided an alternative narrative for the Hume-Adams talks, an explanation that served to further calm doubts and suspicions about the real direction of the talks.

For instance, just two weeks after the Hume-Adams dialogue was revealed, the two men issued a joint statement which included the following four sentences:

We accept that the Irish people as a whole have a right to national self-determination. This is a view shared by a majority of the people of this island though not by all its people. The exercise of self-determination is a matter for agreement between the people of Ireland. It is the search for that agreement and the means of achieving it on which we will be concentrating.

Those of you who were alive at the time, or have long memories, may recall that there was a great deal of debate about the meaning of these cryptic sentences and much mystification surrounded them. It is obvious now what they mean: Sinn Fein will accept the principle of consent.

But at the time, even though there were niggling doubts, most of those of a republican bent, who supported the Provos, were just incapable of accepting what stared them in the face, and most of those who did understand decided to keep their mouths shut. But to stay that way, they would need evidence, otherwise their loyalty and silence could be seriously eroded.

And that is why The Sunday Independent’s war in 1993 against John Hume assumes such importance. Not only was it a driver towards pan-Nationalist unity and a rallying point for Gerry Adams’ supporters, but it provided an alternative narrative which doubting Sinn Feiners gratefully grasped.

Adams’ talks with John Hume were, according to the Indo, not the beginnings of a sellout but a clever plot to wrong-foot the Prods and, using the strength of pan-Nationalism, lead the North into an all-Ireland republic.

How do I know, responded your average Provo when asked. “Because Eoghan Harris says so, because Anne Harris says so, because the entire staff of The Sunday Independent’s op-ed page says so, that’s why, and they’re all as mad as hell. And if they’re angry, then I’m happy.”

That’s why Sean Donlon’s and Tim Atwood’s letters to The Irish Times should maybe instead have expressed gratitude to Anne Harris and The Sunday Indo instead of anger.

Although she didn’t know at the time, and maybe would resist the logic of this article today, she helped keep the peace process afloat when it sailed into dangerous waters.

Here’s the link to Anne Harris’ op-ed in The Irish Times, and below, two of the letters published in the same paper slating Ms Harris for her paper’s campaign against John Hume:

Sir, – In “History will judge O’Reilly as a man of principle” (Opinion & Analysis, October 3rd), Anne Harris makes it clear that her agenda is to defend the Sunday Independent’s coverage of John Hume’s peace initiative in the early 1990s.

She takes it on herself, tabloid-style, to define Mr Hume’s approach as to “ask the Irish Republic to accept the IRA’s and Gerry Adams’s credentials on his say-so”.

If her newspaper had followed accepted journalistic standards and based its coverage on the available evidence and information from those centrally or marginally involved in the pursuit of peace, she would have realised that Mr Hume’s approach was rooted in principles which he had first set out in The Irish Times on May 18th and 19th, 1964.

He remained faithful to these principles all his political life.

In particular, his commitment to non-violence was never diluted.

His success in persuading the IRA and Gerry Adams to take the non-violent road created the Belfast Agreement and subsequent agreements. Yes it is a bumpy and sometimes pot-holed road but it is working.

The Sunday Independent’s persistent and vicious attacks on John Hume were a serious mistake, an absolute disgrace and damaged the reputation of Irish journalism. – Yours, etc,

SEAN DONLON,

London.
Sir, – I wish to challenge the comments by Anne Harris about Nobel laureate John Hume.

First, I believe Tony O’Reilly was not only a colossus of Irish and global business but an unwavering supporter of non-violent constitutional nationalism throughout the darkest days of the Troubles.

I, however, do take grave exception to Anne Harris’s commentary on John Hume.

I defend the freedom of the press and a journalists write to criticise, challenge and oppose.

However, the actions of the Sunday Independent in the 1980s and 1990s were not normal “democratic discourse” but were a vitriolic campaign aimed at undermining and discrediting John Hume in his efforts to end violence.

Who can forget the scalding attacks in the Sunday Independent in 1993 when half a dozen articles attacked John Hume, culminating in a nasty cartoon which depicted blood dripping from John’s hands?

These attacks did take a personal toll on John Hume but also galvanised his peace efforts.

I remember the heart-breaking image of John Hume breaking down when the young daughter of one of those murdered in the Greysteel atrocity said: “Mr Hume, we prayed for you around my daddy’s coffin last night. We prayed that you would succeed in the work you were doing, so that no one will ever have to suffer in the future what we have suffered.”

It was clear that the people of Ireland, North and South, wanted the terrible violence to end and rallied behind the John Hume and his endeavours to bring peace. Indeed the Sunday Independent published a poll which showed that 72 per cent supported the Hume-Adams talks.

Anne Harris should reflect on these facts and the words of The Irish Times which stated that Ireland “owes no greater debt than to the man who insisted that living for Ireland is better than dying for it; that it is more challenging of the human spirit to learn to live with one’s adversaries than to subdue them”, and concluded, “John Hume has wrought the very basis of Ireland’s future”.

Perhaps on reflection Anne Harris will have the good grace to apologise to John Hume, as some other Sunday Independent columnists, such as Eamon Dunphy, have done. – Yours, etc,

Cllr TIM ATTWOOD,
SDLP,
Belfast.