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Hunt-ing Roma in Waterford

Sweden Democrats 2014 election poster – to the left, it says “Time to stop the organised begging on our streets.”

So the Sunday Independent makes a predictable defence of the racist mob that targeted Roma homes in Waterford last week.

I’m not going to bother picking apart Carol’s arguments here – instead, I am going to tell you about a story I’m working on which illustrates how dangerous such writing can be.

In the summer of 2014 Vasile Zamfir came to Stockholm from Romania to collect the remains of his father, who had died of a heart attack while in Sweden, to bring his coffin home to be buried.

He was one of hundreds of Roma in the city, many of whom have made their way to Sweden to beg on the streets. He had a son with Downs Syndrome in Romania, and the money he and others collected – usually around €10 a day – was saved and brought home.

Like most of the Roma currently in Sweden, Vasile lived together with a group of others in a temporary camp, made up of lean-to shacks and tents.

Despite Sweden’s liberal reputation, the Roma aren’t popular with a lot of people, and the standard accusations are levelled at them.

They only come here for the social welfare (they are not entitled to social welfare), they are criminals, they are part of an organised begging ring (neither charities nor authorities have found any evidence to support this claim) and so on.

The wilder stories tell of them being dropped off in the morning in shiny BMWs and Mercedes, pictures of handicapped children handed out to increase their takings from the gullible Swedes.

I have followed these people, and I have never seen any evidence of the above.

But that didn’t stop the Sweden Democrats – a far-right party founded by neo-Nazis in 1988 – from printing up election posters about banning “organised begging”.

The internet went one step further.

“The beggars’ camp should be torn down, burned or blown to fuck. Preferably with the beggars hanging upside down. Hypothetical thoughts, but…” was one contribution to the debate.

“Stones, knives, petrol bombs, or Kalashinikov, makes no difference when our elected representatives haven’t the guts to take the step to free us from this modern plague, I will applaud each and everyone who contributes so we avoid seeing these people, who deliberately dress in rags and try to profit from the innate goodness of us Swedes,” was another.

Everywhere, there were well-meaning columns written – surely it can’t be racist to question why they are here, or why they are unemployed? And for every column written by a well-meaning, well-to-do journalist, the stakes for the Roma went up.

At 4am on the warm summer night that was August 31, and luckily for most of his friends, one of the residents of Vasile’s camp got up to urinate.

He saw how flames quickly spread across the roofs of the shacks that housed 17 people in Högdalen.

In the beginning there was no smoke – as there would have been if a cigarette butt had smouldered and set light to timber, for example – which led many of the residents to believe that the fire was started deliberately using a flammable liquid.

Vasile Zamfir och Codrut Kalanyos were trapped in their shack. Codrut survived but was badly injured.

Police and the fire brigade came, but the scene was not secured until seven hours later, making it almost impossible to conduct a proper investigation into what caused the fire. Many witnesses were never interviewed.

Vasile died in a Swedish hospital from injuries sustained in a fire that many believe was started deliberately, with the sole purpose of driving the Roma out of the area and out of Sweden – pretty much the same goal as the marchers in Waterford last Saturday night who broke windows and terrorised women and children.

He came to Sweden to collect the remains of his father, and instead he too now lies in the ground in Romania.

In your article Carol – which, incidentally, repeats a slew of favoured modern racist tropes, from Roma criminality to the invoking of Rotherham to permit any form of wild unfounded accusation – you refer to last week’s pogrom and ask the following question:


All of that is disgusting, horribly, criminally wrong.

But do I really need to say that? Isn’t it self-evident? 

The answer is very simple. As long as mobs feel that they can take the law into their own hands and go smashing the windows of families because of their ethnicity – yes, you do. Loudly and clearly, and without going on to legitimise such actions in the next paragraph.

Because your questioning of the Roma, your oblique references to the “moral failure” of their culture (whatever that may be), and your failure to understand that their difficulties are caused not by their ethnicity but by their marginalisation and poverty, legitimises real racism like the marching mobs of Waterford.

And it provides the fuel for the fires of these mobs who believe that they can burn out anyone they choose.

Ge oss bättre spelare, inte färre lag

Henok Goitom: lärde sig inte från koner

Jag har följt Allsvenskan ändå sen jag flyttade till Sverige 1999.

De senaste sex åren har det varit min uppgift att bevaka den, tillsammans med Danmarks Superligaen och Norges Tippeligaen, åt en av värdelens största nyhetsbyråer.

Och lösningen till Allsvenskans bristande kvalité är inte mindre lag – det är att utveckla bättre spelare.

Att ta bort två eller fyra eller sex lag gör inte den genomsnittliga allsvenska fotbollsspelaren bättre. Snarare begränsar det chansen för denne att blomstra eftersom det blir färre och färre platformer att glänsa på.

Gör vi det accepterar vi att vi inte kan producera fotbollsspelare längre. Det vore trist.

Att höja kvalitén på Allsvenskan och för den delen i landslaget handlar snarare om att göra om allt i svensk fotboll från grunden.

I några decennier har man konkurrerat på fysiken och attityden och en arbetsmoral som håller svensken borta från sprit och dumheter.

Det räcker inte längre.

För en modern toppspelare krävs allt detta plus en strålande teknik och beslutsfattningsförmåga.

Det får man inte från att springa mellan koner med en boll några kvällar i veckan, eller än sämre utan boll i långa, meningslösa fyspass för ungdomar.

Det finns inga koner på plan i Allsvenskan, eller Premier League, eller La Liga. När du ska tackla Cristiano Ronaldo eller gör mål på David De Gea finns det inte en kona i världen som kan hjälpa dig.

Vi måste tänka om från grunden om hur vi utbildar och utvecklar våra talanger och från vilka utgångsvärderingar.

Vi måste fråga hur man bäst lär sig att spela fotboll och att lösa de problem som uppstår på banan.

Det vi kommer att komma fram till är att de spelarna som båda drar publik och som ligger längst fram tekniskt – Zlatan, Henok Goitom, Imad Zatara, David Accam för att nämna några som har glänst i Allsvenskan – är de som spelade kopiöst mycket spontanfotboll som barn, och det nästan helt utan ingripande från vuxna.

Där är det gårdens regler som gäller och gallringen av ungdomar så älskade av de idiotiska  ”elitsatsningar” som finns i vissa klubbar sker på ett naturligt sätt – löser du inte problem på banan blir ditt lag slagen och du får vänta på din nästa chans.

Intelligens och teknik belönas när det kopplas till styrka, uthållighet och vilja.

Det blir färre och färre svenska spelarna i de stora klubbarna utomlands därför att vi producerar spelare som är lagom och inte mer.

De duger som utfyllnad i proffstrupper och gör inte så mycket väsen av sig.

De är pålitliga. Starka. Dugliga. Men knappast stjärnor och sällan de som får publiken att ställa sig upp och vråla.

En handfull sticker förstås ut men inget jämfört med vad det borde eller kunde vara.

Att banta Allsvenskan från 16 lag till 12 skulle bara dölja problemet istället för lösa det. Vi måste istället glömma allt vi tror oss veta om hur ungdomar lär sig spela fotboll. Sen måste vi våga låta de lär sig i sin egen takt.

När vi väl har gjort det kommer vi att ha en ny generation svenska spelare som den allsvenska publiken är beredda att betala för att se och som är attraktiva för utländska klubbar.

Och när vi ändå håller på kan vi sänka biljettpriserna så att ungdomar har råd att gå på fotboll.

Det finns inget lika motiverande som att stå på läktaren och se en kille från din ort avgöra en match. Då tänker man: ”Jag vill vara som honom.”

Vi måste helt enkelt riva upp varje marknadsföringsprognos och coachningsmanual som existerar och börja om där den bästa med fotbollen alltid börjar.

På läktaren. På gården. På gatan.

Bara då kommer svensk fotboll att må bra igen.

Missing the bigger picture as AP fires freelancer

The original photograph (top) and the manipulated version.

This week the Associated Press dispensed – rightly – with the services of freelance photographer Narciso Contreras, who used software to remove a colleague’s video camera from an image he took in Syria.

What Contreras did was wrong. The value of press photography is embedded entirely in its integrity – we have to know what these images represent is the truth.

In this one instance, Contreras broke that bond of trust. His punishment, while harsh, is probably justified. His career could well be destroyed.

But what is deeply unappetizing is the pontificating being done by pictures editors who are no strangers to offering photographers – even those working in war zones like Contreras – peanuts for their work.

His firing has prompted a glut of self-righteous pieces such as this one from the Guardian which makes all the right noises about integrity, but says little about how images are acquired and paid for.

Noticeably, it does not ask why Contreras – a Pulitzer prize winner – did what he did.

Since the turn of the century, the combination of modern digital cameras and the fact that many of the world’s hotspots are no-go areas for western photographers has seen the rise of the local freelancer or stringer.

It’s not unknown for an amateur who shows talent to be discovered by an agency or a news outlet.

They are then given tips – and in some cases equipment – and sent out into places where it is too dangerous for westerners to go. They are sometimes paid by the day, sometimes by the image.

It’s seldom very much. It’s usually a lot less than what a western photographer would get.

There isn’t much offered in the way of insurance  or training or counseling either.

And when the war or conflict ends, there’s not much chance of a staff job somewhere either. The news moves on. They don’t.

Contreras, from Mexico City, was working as a freelancer in Syria, essentially competing against newly-minted photographers such as those described above.

I don’t know what freelance deal Contreras had with AP, but an educated guess at the original image suggests that, as shot, it wasn’t sellable.

Contreras might not have had any other decent images that day either, and thus he may have decided that in this one instance it was worth a shot at manipulating the image in a way that is normally totally unacceptable.

After all, having spent a day on any assignment, let alone one as dangerous and as violent as Syria, a freelance photographer must have something to show for it.

It should also be pointed out that it was he himself that brought this manipulation to AP’s attention, and that no other image filed with the agency showed any signs of having been manipulated in a similar fashion.

I’m by no means accusing AP of underpaying Contreras or of putting him in danger, nor am I excusing what he did. Trying to understand something is not the same as condoning it.

What I am doing is asking the question: why did he choose to do this?

Was it because of economic necessity?

Because if it was, we have a very big problem on our hands.

Modern (and not-so-modern) media businesses are working on notoriously tight margins, and agencies and outlets are trying to get content for as little as possible.

But if that is going to be the business model, then something has to give. You cannot produce good journalism on a shoestring.

It might be that we have to accept a photographer manipulating an image, or a reporter reporting quotes and scenes he didn’t witness first-hand as if he was on the spot.

AP have deleted Contreras’ images from the public database, but the debate cannot be deleted from the public domain – how much are we (consumers, readers and agencies) willing to pay for our content?

And if that isn’t enough to compensate journalists, photographers and camera people for the risks that they take, how much are we prepared to have our news compromised as a result?


Sveriges största fotbollsnackis – men keep it under your hat…

Så här nära var Bojan att få baskern redan idag – men nej. Fotbolls-Sverige kräver att det sköts snyggare än så.

Presskonferens med Erik Hamren idag och jag var otroligt nära den scoopen som hela den svenska fotbollsmediakåren vill ha just nu.

Nämligen – hur och när kommer Bojan Djordjic att få Robert Lauls basker?

Har du varit uppe på ett berg och helt utan täckning så kanske du inte känner till det som hela fotbolls-Sverige har pratat om.

Robert tippade att Bojans Brommapojkarna skulle åka ur Allsvenskan direkt – han var så säker på sin sak att han slog ju vad om det genom att säga om BP klarade sig kvar utan att kvala – och om Bojan spelade fler matcher från start än ifjol – så skulle Robert ge honom sport-Sveriges mest välkända huvudbonad.

I söndags slog den in – men inte till Robbans fördel.

2-2 borta mot Halmstad räckte för att BP skulle klara sig utan att kvala.

Blixsnabbt började hashtaggen #skickabaskern trenda på Twitter.

Inte sedan Bojan vann SM-guld med AIK 2009 har han varit så glad på säsongens sista dag och plötsligt ville hela fotbolls-Sverige veta hur, när och var baskern skulle lämnas över.

Men sedan dess – tystnad.

Jag kan nu avslöja i bästa kvällstidnings-stil att förhandlingarna har pågått febrilt bakom kulisserna men bildbevisen finns här – Roberts älskade basker har än så länge inte lämnats över till Bojan.

Parterna har inte kunnat enas – så stor är den här frågan. Som bilden visar så var jag väldigt nära att lösa det själv idag genom att sno den och köra i hög fart hem till Bojan med bytet.

Men icke. Till skillnad från Friends Arena och 50 Cent-lurar ska det här lösas snyggt.

Jag vet hur mycket Robert älskar sin basker men han är en hederlig man – han har förlorat ett vad och han tänker lämna över den.

Bojan Djordjic är en god vän utanför fotbollen (vi är med i styrelsen för Kista Galaxy tillsammans) och en vinnarskalle rakt igenom – har han vunnit något vill han säkert få sitt pris.

Men jag hoppas att de kanske kan hitta en lösning där Robert kan behålla baskern samtidigt som Bojan blir tillfredsställd.

Det kan handla om något som ersätter baskern i vadet.

Det kan handla om att någon annan får frukten av Bojans sköna vinst.

Det kan helt enkelt handla om att Robban lämnar bara över den och därmed blir vi av med ett av fotbolls-Sveriges största och mest folkkära varumärken.

Men oavsett hur det slutar så är det viktigt för svenska fotbollens rykte att det görs på ett värdigt sätt.

Frågan är bara vem som är först ut med nyheten – Roberts Sportbladet eller Bojans Twitter-konto?

Du kan föreslå din egen lösning till ”Baskergate” på 140 tecken genom att använda hashtaggen #skickabaskern. Jag kommer att framföra de allra bästa till Bojans och Roberts representanter så att de kan tas med i förhandlingarna om hur svensk fotbolls största höstsnackis skall lösas. 

Guth – why we need a new media voice in Ireland


As soon as Gerard Cunningham suggested the idea of a new independent Irish news magazine run by journalists to me, I was onboard. And here’s why.

Modern media is a complex business where the interests of shareholders, advertisers, editors, journalists and readers seldom converge.

Decisions about what stories to cover are taken for a wide variety of reasons – many of them commercial, as evidenced by the explosion in property porn and the light-touch reporting of Ireland’s “booming” economy, which subsequently went bang.

Stories about our society that deserve much greater scrutiny get buried under reams of pointless waffle about “rugby threesomes”, reality TV shows and “tell-us-about-your-book” interviews.

Guth is an ambitious crowd-funded project that tried to address those and other concerns about what motivates Irish journalism.

By securing as much funding as possible up front from readers, the dependence on advertising is removed, allowing much greater editorial freedom in what is a cut-throat market.

Guth will allow reporters to use their news sense to bring you stories that you haven’t already heard, or a perspective you may not have thought of.

It will hopefully herald a wholesale return to top-class investigative journalism in Ireland, of sharp writing and critical thinking.

In an era where freelance fees are collapsing, it will ensure that these reporters get the resources they need to do the job properly, and avoid the amateurish mistakes that are becoming more and more prevalent as hard-pressed hacks seek to churn out low-value content to feed the media beast.

Guth is not the answer to all our prayers, but from what I’ve seen it looks like a pretty good start.

By giving you the reader a sense of ownership, the contributors want to get back to what it is journalists are supposed to do – holding people and organisations to account, instead of sustaining share prices, property markets and fevered egos.

So sign up now for as much as you can, and let’s see how loud we can make this new media voice.

The needle and the damage done

She stood across the high table from me, fidgeting in that imperceptible way that people do when trying their best to appear relaxed.

I was interviewing her because her story was the opposite of most sportspeople.

Though talented, she had never stood out for most of her career.

She was a late bloomer, and than in itself is enough to ring alarm bells. The difference was that when she bloomed – boy, did she bloom.

She went from being among the has-beens and the also-rans to being one of the stars of her sport.

There was no discernible difference in technical ability, just an explosive power and endurance added to what she said “God gave her.”

God appeared to have decided to top it up at some time in her late twenties too – and then some.

I asked the question everybody wanted the answer to – why her? Why now?

She looked at me and started to answer, looking down at the floor momentarily in the middle of it before remembering her well-rehearsed lines.

It was her diet, you see – that, and the new weights program with her new personal trainer.

You see, she hadn’t been taking care of herself properly before, and now she was doing things properly – that was the explanation.

She looked at me as if I was a teacher who’d asked her a history question, a “was that

I didn’t let it go.

“But given all that’s happened across the board in sports – surely people aren’t going to believe you?”

This time, her gaze didn’t waver.

“People can believe what they want to believe –I can’t do to change that. All I know is that I am not a cheat. I know I’m clean.”

Afterwards, I took some pictures to go with the interview. She relaxed and a beautiful smile lit up her face.

Afterwards, we looked at them in the camera together, and she asked me to send them on to her.

She reminded me of many young women – critical of her own appearance, delighted when she found a picture that made her look beautiful.

She asked me to send it to her; I did, and she thanked me for it.

A while later, closer to a major event she was to take part in, I mailed her again. She never mailed back.

A little less than two years later, she was at the pinnacle of her sport, winning the one they all set out to win.

As she collected her prize, her face beaming, I looked at the picture I’d taken on the day I’d done the interview.

Her face wasn’t the same.

The warm natural beauty was gone, replaced by a frozen mask, all teeth and tense eyes, as if waiting for someone to point a finger at her and say: “This is not yours to keep. You don’t deserve this.”

I didn’t believe her story then, and I don’t believe her now.

I believe that, rather than diet and weights, she was taking performance-enhancing drugs.

And I don’t necessarily believe that she’ll ever get caught.

But I do believe that an awful lot of sportspeople – in track, in ball sports, in cycling, in swimming, in skiing – are still telling us the same lies that she told me.

And that tells me that as long as they are prepared to take the risks and tell the lies, we’re obviously not doing enough.

We need to take the rules we have, and put them on steroids.

Breach of trust, but no surprise about Irish childcare

Just watched the “Breach of Trust” program made about Irish childcare facilities by the RTE investigations unit, and the one question that kept coming back to me was – why are we surprised?

RTE PrimeTime Breach of Trust 28.05.2013 by dm_51a5d3b020346

This is Ireland, where since the foundation of the state we have betrayed our children.

For many years, we turned a blind eye as they were raped by generation after generation of priests and religious figures, but no-one intervened.

In our schools, we let some of the same psychppaths beat the hell out of them every day as they attempted to impart their “wisdom” through fear and violence.

For those we abandoned most, we left them to grow up in places like Artane and the Magdalene laundries, where the violence and the abuse didn’t end with the school bell; instead, it went on for years and years, damaging generation after generation of people – men and women – beyond repair.

And even when, as a nouveau-riche nation built on borrowed money and a property bubble, we could afford childcare, we paid over hundreds and thousands of euros a month to the profiteers, private enterprises who, as the program shows, had more interest in making money than the wellbeing of our children.

Where did we go wrong?

Well, we believed that we could serve two masters – that we could have the absolute best of care for our children, and still let the good people running the show make a profit.

The two may not be mutually exclusive, but they’re as near as dammit.

As with many other areas of our laissez-faire lifestyle, what little regulation there is is laughable, such as the stipulation that only 50% of those looking after your children need to be qualified.

Would we accept that in the healthcare sector? Education? Transport? The building industry? No, and for a very good reason.

This is but the latest in a long line of wake-up calls in Ireland, but depressingly, little will happen, as usual. The most-often used phrase on this blog is “we don’t do accountability” but I’ll copy/paste it again here.

The bank bailout means that we can’t change things, even if we want to – and even if we did, we are too enamoured by our love of the chimera of “freedom” and “choice” that the free market promises us as it dips into our wallets and neglects our offspring.

I couldn’t help but noticing that at the top of the list of countries for childcare were Finland and Sweden, and I may as well draw a line under this article here and now.

That we know this to be the case – and that we have known it for a very long time – yet still we refuse to do anything about it says it all about how we run our affairs.

In fact, our social protection minster Joan Burton was here not long after I did a TV show with ITV on how the Scandinavian model works – but doubtless like her gin on the flight home, whatever proposals she brought home with her will surely be watered down by the time she gets to Dublin.

Watch the video above, but before we point the fingers at the hapless, hopeless people working in these facilities, we need to look at ourselves and realise that we can either have it all for ourselves, or for our children.

Not both.

How Boston marks the end for the right to bear arms

The massive display of force by local and federal authorities in their efforts to apprehend the Tsarnaev brothers (prime suspects in the bombing of the Boston marathon) may have had one completely unintended consequence – the debunking of the myth that is the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

As yet there are scant details of the arms borne by the Tsarnaevs – one of whom is now deceased, the other in hospital and unable to communicate – so we don’t know if the guns they carried were legal or not.

What is absolutely certain is that there is no way their arsenal – however big – provided any sort of a match for the collective might of the US authorities.

Why is this the end of the right to bear arms? Well, let’s look at the second amendment for a second, as ratified by the states:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed

The basic premise of the amendment is that guns should be kept and militias organised to protect “the security of a free state” – in other words, if the government gets too big for its boots, the people should be able to rise up and take back power.

Given the immense display of power in Boston the last few days, there is absolutely no way that any militia or any individual in the United States of America – in their right minds – could consider rising up and doing anything.

Like the Tsarnaevs, they would  be crushed within hours.

Any doubts about that? Think again.

Authorities ordered businesses in Boston to stay closed. They shut down transport networks. Logan Airport operated under severe restrictions. They closed off Watertown for the whole day. They stopped and searched hundreds, if not thousands of vehicles and people.

Troops were put on the streets. Police officers, federal agents and SWAT teams searched properties and made house calls. The state had decided it wanted to apprehend these two, and no expense was spared.

When they did run into the brothers, late on Thursday night after the murder of an MIT police officer, they responded with massive violence. It’s fair to say the two brothers responded in kind, but with little discernible effect.

They may have killed four people and injured hundreds more, but faced by the state’s apparatus of violence they were without hope.

It’s worth noting that over 3,500 people have been killed by guns since the slaughter of innocent children – none of whom, presumably, were a threat to national security – at Sandy Hook, and yet nothing has changed, apart from the Obama administration getting a bloody nose as agun control measures were voted down.

Despite the lazy media attempts to shoehorn the brothers into the Islamic extremist corner, we know nothing of their motives yet.

Whatever the Tsarnaevs were, no doubt they would argue that they were “fighting” (for want of a better word to paraphrase the murder and maiming of innocents) for a better society – most likely against the tyranny of the state, real or imagined, and a view often shared by extreme right and left alike, not to mention religious groups.

But the idiotic notion that one man or a small group of men or women can hold the government of the United States of America to account died on a Boston street with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his corpse full of state-bought bullets and damaged by his own cheap bomb.

Despite the lockdown, despite thousands of people missing work, despite the university campuses closing down en masse, despite the terror that gripped the city, the authorities will still tell the people of Boston and the world that the end of this operation is a great day for freedom.

In their nation violently born of a frontier spirit, Americans need to realise is that they can only preserve that freedom – much of it already given away – is by fixing their inadequate, broken democracy.

Not by keeping an assault rifle in the garage and thinking Obama is afraid of you.


Thatcher is dead, but Thatcherism lives on

Margaret Thatcher tries the peace sign. You’re right, it doesn’t suit her.

And so it came to pass – finally got to change their home page from “No” to “Yes”.

Many people – republicans, socialists, communists, Argentinians, Irish people, miners and the poor, among many others – have been looking forward to this day.

And when it passes, they will remain unsatisfied – Thatcher may be dead, but her greedy, selfish, anti-state, pro-market politics are thriving like never before.

Thatcher was never a Tory in the true sense of the word. Her ideology was more that of an old-fashioned liberal, complete with Victorian values and a worldview that was equally out of date.

She took over as British prime minister in turbulent times, believing in the power of money and ambition over all else, and that if only people had enough freedom they would all prosper.

To encourage others to believe likewise, she turned people against each other and began the dismantling of the safety nets that had previously set British society apart.

She might be gone, but her policies live on, not least in Ireland where, on the surface at least, she was more hated than most other places in the world.

The Irish may have hated her personally for her handling of Northern Ireland, but we have never been slow to embrace her policies – letting the free market run riot, offering the vulnerable in society the bare minimum and encouraging private enterprise to solve the problems of society using profit as its motivator.

If there was one place where unions are less-respected than in Thatcher’s Britain, it is in Ireland.

Some of this may be due to the ineptitude of the current and past leadership, but much of it is due to a similar passion for freedom and the misguided notion that every man is an island and in control of our own destiny.

As it turns out, we are not. Like it or not, we are all dependent on others to a greater or lesser extent.

Her status as the people’s champion, the prime minister who stuck up for “the little man” was belied by her being in the pockets of the arms industry, of Reagan and of Pinochet.

Deregulation was the order of the day as banks, financiers and traders saw the rules stripped away. She never allowed a deeper understanding of the complex nature of the world to cloud her simplistic view of the freedom to make a living being paramount.

But as the flags fly at half-mast over Whitehall, her legacy lives on in Kildare Street in Dublin, where the elected representatives will still tell you that there is no good to be had from the unions, and that if only everyone is as free to make as much money as they like, then social justice will look after itself.

And they will be as wrong as she was, despite her passing.

And they will continue to be wrong, long, long after she is gone.

It Says Here – in the Workmans Club next week, talking about journalism

Many have asked me why a journalist would take the stage in a Dublin club to talk about what he does all day, and admittedly it might seem strange.

But rather than hiding in sub-zero temperatures (outdoors, not indoors) in Stockholm, I see that stage as another platform for dialogue in our multimedia world.

It’s also a different way of engaging with people – eye to eye, in a dark room, in a public forum.

I have no fears on that front, because I believe journalism is no longer about me broadcasting to you – it’s about being part of a conversation.

Too often, journalists ignore their critics and do not engage. It’s not always pleasant, but I always try to respond. I think it has made me better and more accountable at what I do.

And that is where I came up with the idea of It Says Here.

“Our free press reflects our democracy”- Billy Bragg, ‘It Says Here’

Billy Bragg – It Says Here

When I grew up I used to read the Evening Press and the Evening Herald every day – we’d buy the Herald, and then when the family was finishing reading it my brother or I would be sent scurrying across to our grandparents’ house, where we’d swap it for the Evening Press.

Before you left with the paper of Dev under your arm, you’d always be grilled by a grandparent about what you thought about what you’d read.

More often you’d be hammered for missing the nuances and given an earful to balance whatever you’d said, before being sent on your way.

And despite college certificates and communications theory, that was where I learned most of what I know about journalism and media, and I want to share it with you.

Because we’ve never been surrounded by more information than we are now, and it has never been more important to be informed.

Politicians, lobby groups, companies sand media organisations all spend massive amounts of money trying to reach us with their messages.

They tell us their version of the truth (which is often very different from everyone else’s) and then leave us to sort out the mess of conflicting messages.

What I plan to do next Tuesday is share with you some of the tools journalists use, both good and bad, in order to make you a more savvy media consumer.

There’s a lot of talk about “good” journalism”, more about “bad” journalism and accusations of “lazy” journalism in Irish media are thrown around like snuff at a wake.

I’ll do my best to show you what I believe to be the right way to go about covering a story, and what tactics are used to make sure I don’t get the truth out of it by those who want it kept secret.

I’ll explode a few myths around the Machiavellian intelligence of our politicians (never suspect a conspiracy where stupidity is a more likely explanation), and try to answer any and all questions you have about the trade, libelling as many people as possible in the proces and then denying it all.

Because journalism is not art – it is a trade.

An article, however significant, is not the Mona Lisa – in it’s proper form, it is the equivalent of a car service for our democracy.

And on Tuesday night at 2000 I’ll be telling you who the cowboys are, how to spot them – and how to call them out.

So come down, talk to me, question me, discuss, listen and leave with more questions than you came in with.

Then go find the answers for them.