Well, that didn’t take long. Just a few days after the South’s general election thrust Sinn Fein to the doorstep of Government Buildings in Dublin, the mask has slipped.
A prominent Dublin party activist by the name of Enda Fanning, who is a member of Sinn Fein’s ruling ard-comhairle, has used Twitter to call for a new ‘monitoring authority’, ‘with powers’, to be set up by the incoming government to prevent criticism of elected Sinn Fein representatives by the media.
Here is the tweet issued by Mr Fanning yesterday afternoon which he published in response to items carried on RTE Radio One’s Joe Duffy programme and which Fanning said had ‘denigrated’ Sinn Fein representatives. Joe Duffy’s coverage, he claimed, was ‘utterly shameful’.
Sinn Fein was, of course, prominent in the campaign to repeal Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act which effectively censored that party from the airwaves in the South for most of the Troubles. The party presented itself to the world as a critic of government-led censorship and a friend of journalism in both Ireland and Britain.
But Mr Fanning’s tweet, which has not yet been disowned by Mary Lou McDonald or any of the party’s hierarchy, suggests that for some in SF that was merely a self-serving pose which hid a deeply authoritarian streak in the party’s make up and an intolerance of dissent that has a distinctly militaristic flavour.
Joe Duffy has the right to say whatever he wishes about Sinn Fein as long as he provides evidence to back up what he reports. Every journalist in Ireland should support him in his exercise of free speech and resist even the most misguided attempt to silence him.
Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald needs to condemn Fanning’s remarks and publicly commit her party to the defence of the media’s right to free speech, especially in the reporting of her party.