Tag Archive for Ireland

Biggest failures in #GE16? Labour, FF, FG and journalism

What election were you watching?

The one I saw was the utter destruction of the status quo.

Incredibly, what a lot of my colleagues apparently saw was a resurgence of it, in the form of Fianna Fáil.

Who, incidentally, had their second-worst election on record.

I saw the outright rejection of the traditional right-wing (note – not centre-right) notion of “stability”of so-called Christian democrats as embodied by the singularly inept and staggeringly incompetent Enda Kenny.

I saw the annihilation of the Irish Labour Party, 100 years after its founder was tied to a chair and shot for his revolutionary tendencies, solely because it abandoned those people who begged it with their votes to protect them.

I saw an election where a motley crew of traitors and treacherous sleeveens record their second-worst election since 1927.

I saw the return of Lowry and two Healy-Raes in an indication that the parish pump of Irish politics is still in full flow in certain parts of the country.

I saw an election that saw Sinn Féin finally returned to the political mainstream after the horrors of the “Long War.”

I saw record numbers of small parties and independents returned as the establishment which has failed Ireland since the foundation of the state was sent packing.

And I saw a fourth estate in the form of the Irish media that couldn’t see the wood for the trees.

Throughout the count, journalists and broadcasters have struggled to understand virtually all the phenomena described above, instead choosing the easy angle of the Fianna Fáil “resurgence” – despite the fact that it has seldom in its history been as weak as it is now.

The paralysis is evidenced by the “experts” called to give their opinions – almost to a man (and occasional woman), they are part of the establishment they built, all while the media stroked their egos.

We had the laughable sight of snake-oil salesman Pat Rabbitte calling anyone who annoyed him “ultra-left” and making the staggering observation that Labour – who pissed in the faces of the poor that voted for them and assured them it was raining – is the “only Social Democratic party” in Ireland.

We’ve had Jody Corcoran, whose Sunday Independent newspaper were the big losers in the election as their private Renua party ran aground on its maiden voyage, now lionizing Micheál Martin – a man they have consistently attacked for five years, but who now holds the balance of power.

And we have the return of the odious Conor Lenihan, possibly the greatest spiv of them all – a man who, together with his inept brother and the rest of their cronies, ruined Ireland.

Not only did he contribute to destroying the country – when he was done, he took his state pensions and jumped ship to tout for foreign direct investment.

For Russia.

The problem of Irish political analysis by journalists was laid bare by the pleasantries exchanged – “congratulations on your election/commiserations on losing your seat.”

Whatever you think of them, your job as a political journalist is not to engage in niceties with people in power, or those who would aspire to have it – it is to ask intelligent pertinent questions on behalf of readers and listeners and viewers.

Time and again last night, bitter Fine Gael politicians contended that it was up to the opposition to take the reins of government.

This conveniently ignored the fact that, despite their abject failure, they would still have a considerable influence on how that government might look, especially if they swallowed their pride and joined Fianna Fáil.

Elsewhere, Labour’s increasing variety of failures all used the same three words as the headed to the gallows – “the national interest”.

Seldom were either of these two self-serving, petulant narratives questioned by the journalists interviewing them.

As I’ve stated elsewhere many times, bias is not always conscious; it is sometimes a function of class and privilege and position.

It is my sincere belief that too many journalists are bound to their desks recycling press releases,tweets and Youtube sound-bytes, and not out in the field actually talking to people and building their own understanding.

In truth, far too many of those in positions of power in Irish media and who are in turn tasked with holding those in power to account are too close to be able to do so properly.

A case in point – when Brian Cowen imitated Ryder Cup golfer Philip Walton and made fun of his speech impediment late one night in a bar, there were plenty of journalists present.

Not only did they not report it – they laughed along.

If, then, reporters are too close to those they should be holding to account, it is easy to understand why they absorb the narratives fed to them like crumbs from the top table.

It is easy to see how the establishment line becomes the truth as quickly as it does.

If Labour are the greatest failures, and Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are not far behind, we must be honest and say that journalism has also failed the democratic process in Ireland.

It is not an easy place to work, but the inability to either predict or explain the outcome illustrates the need for voices who go against the grain, who do not cosy up to the powerful, and who put no price on their ability to say what they see.

In short, what we need is more independent journalists, and less Independent journalists.

And until we get that, we will only be getting the part of the story the insiders and career politicians want us to hear.

The Lads are counting on you

The Lads are counting on you

The message from the establishment parties for the election is a clear one, and it’s very important that you clowns in the electorate don’t get it wrong – you need to vote for The Lads.

They’re counting on you.

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight – you don’t matter.

Not unless you’re male, an en-tra-pan-oor, own a bank or a big building in London or Singapore, or live in a tax haven.

Your function in this is to vote for people who will look after the aforementioned, not to engage in all this crap about social justice and fairness and equality and all that nonsense.

Ireland, you see, is run for The Lads – sometimes by The Lads, but mostly for them. And you better not forget that.

Forward-looking nation that we are, there are some women among The Lads, but it is mostly men.

The Lads need you to work as cheaply as possible so that they can make as much money as possible off you.

The Lads also need you to pay as much tax as possible, so that they can pay as little as possible, and then lecture you about why they shouldn’t have to pay any at all.

The Lads also need you to pay your taxes and expect nothing in return.

That way, The Lads can start up private enterprises like creches and care homes and hospitals, and have a nice oul’ closed bid process where they divvy up the public money that they can get their mitts on.

Then The Lads can then charge you through the nose for things that you’ve already paid for, but that their mates in Leinster House have ensured cannot and will never work properly.

The Lads get to sweep up everything, from “social” housing to communications networks, and you will only ever get to own a share in them if they’re not making any money and never look like doing so ever again.

And ultimately, when it all goes wrong, The Lads will come back to you looking to be bailed out, because they can’t be expected to take these losses on their own – they’re The Lads, for fuck’s sake! Sure don’t we owe them everything!

And as for women, The Lads don’t like them much.

THey want control over their own bodies?! The cheek of them!

They want to be allowed into the boardrooms?! Over the dead bodies of The Lads!

They want to stand for election? IN OUR SEATS?!?!

If you are voting for Fine Gael, or Fianna Fáil or Labour, you are voting for The Lads.

You are voting to allow them to continue putting their hands in your pocket and take your money and your medical card and your dignity.

You are voting to return to power the guard dogs of The Lads, the very people who ensure that the benefits of trickle-down economics continue to flow upwards.

You are voting for stability – for The Lads.

You are voting for recovery – for The Lads.

You are voting for prosperity – for The Lads.

Now a situation might well arise where a few others at the bottom of the food chain might make a pound or two in the process, and that is entirely regrettable – but you can be sure that The Lads won’t be long knocking the craic out of it with a rent hike, or an increase in your premium, or your phone bill.

So remember – vote for The Lads.

They have a plan.

But it doesn’t include you.

And it never will.

 

 

Bad apologies a sign of the Times

What else should I write
I don’t have the right
What else should I be
All apologies
- Nirvana, “All Apologies”

So the New York Times has apologised for a story insulting six dead young Irish people, insinuating that they and thousands of other young Irish people are nothing more than drunken vandals and troublemakers.

But judging by the apology, they don’t actually realise what they did wrong.

According to NYT spokesperson Eileen Murphy, they “understand”.

We understand and agree that some of the language in the piece could be interpreted as insensitive, particularly in such close proximity to this tragedy.

The problem for Murphy is that it’s not that the “language in the piece could be interpreted as insensitive” – that is exactly what it was.

No interpretation necessary.

After all, it juxtaposes six recently-deceased young people with a “national embarrassment” to Ireland – a phenomenon for which no concrete evidence is offered, apart from one column from 2014, a quick perusal of a Facebook group, and a few complaints from neighbours.

This, apparently, is how journalism is conducted at one of America’s most prestigious newspapers.

The three reporters whose byeline is on the story aren’t exactly novices either. Adam Nagourney is national political reporter, while Quentin Hardy is an award-winning journalist and deputy technology editor.

Somehow between them and their superiors, they got it wrong.

But they still don’t even know how wrong.

“…there was a more sensitive way to tell the story…” Nagourney told NYT Public Editor Margaret Sullivan.

He’s right – and in this case, it was by not telling it at all.

The journalistic instincts of Nagourney and his colleagues were actually right – the story needed to be “moved on”, context needed to be given, explanations sought.

But there is nothing in the J1 visa program or the behaviour of Irish students that contributed to their deaths.

The J1 issue might even be worthy of a story on its own merits, but not here, not now, and certainly not in this way.

What might have been relevant would have been to go through building regulations, landlords cramming students and other migrant workers into sub-par accommodation, and the exploitation of these young people by unscrupulous business owners.

But the innate conservative nature of the New York Times does not lend itself to that kind of scrutiny – as seen on countless occasions, it is the establishment’s nodding donkey.

In short, the New York Times story was as hurtful as it was unavoidable.

Its instinct is always to apportion blame to the weak.

The wounds to Ireland’s pride will heal.

The families, in time, will forget, the story hopefully receding and replaced by happier memories of the brothers and sisters, friends and neighbours that are no longer with us.

But the New York Times will continue to tug its forelock to the powerful, because that is its nature.

And no apology in the world will change it.

 

 

Enjoy the silence – “balance” has failed

The broadcast moratorium on the Irish Marriage Equality referendum is now in force, meaning that legacy technology is now excluded from the debate, which will continue online in earnest until long after the polls have closed.

But as the curtains come down on the radio and TV coverage and debates, it’s time to call a spade a spade – “balance” as it is interpreted in Irish journalism (particularly in broadcast journalism) has been a spectacular and predictable failure.

The McKenna judgment may loom large but it is no excuse for not robustly challenging and investigating both sides of the campaign.

Declining to properly investigate and analyse the funding of both sides may appear at first glance to be balanced, but it’s not, as it is the voters who are left wondering how to follow the money.

Allowing campaigners to go unchallenged with statements that range from the completely spurious to the downright offensive does not provide “balance.”

Allowing campaigners to keep referring to the same unrelated subjects, over and over and over again, despite the Referendum Commission saying several times that they were of no relevance, does not provide balance.

Instead, it allows the waters to be muddied – the very antithesis of what journalism, and in particular public service broadcasting, should be.

We have had a situation where, under the watchful myopic eye of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, editors, producers and journalists were too busy watching the clock to ensure that both sides get equal time to notice that the emperors they are interviewing were in many cases not wearing any clothes.

In our newspapers, opinion pieces from both sides were published seemingly without any facts being checked. Glaring errors and misleading information went uncorrected and unacknowledged.

The result was a skewed and shallow debate about non-issues that leaves Irish media consumers with more questions than answers.

Given that Irish people have a tendency to leave the constitution untouched when they don’t have clarity on the issue at hand, it’s hardly a wonder that the gap is closing.

The issue – whether “marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex” – has barely been discussed, if at all, in the run-up to polling day.

In the vast majority of cases, media moguls have been running scared.

In some cases, “experts” put forward turned out to be nothing more than internet trolls with dubious credentials. And in the case of at least one prominent gay member of the No campaign, the most charitable thing that can be said is that if he didn’t exist, they would have had to invent him.

Forced to pick from a tiny pool of No contributors, the same faces trotted out arguments that became more and more hysterical and irrelevant.

Pointing this out to them would not have been in any way unbalanced. It would have been simple common sense.

Alas, it happened all too seldom.

There are some notable exceptions – Philip Boucher-Hayes and Miriam O’Callaghan (RTE), Chris Donoghoe (Newstalk) and Matt Cooper (Today FM) all interrupted rants at times to point out that the contents of them were not relevant.

This, unfortunately wasn’t enough to stop some of the debaters, whose ignorance of good manners was almost as broad as their ignorance of the facts.

The provision of impartial information is the job of the Referendum Commission. It is not the media to be a mouthpiece for either side.

It is the job of journalists to report what happens, to question what they are told and to try to put it in context.

For too long,the practice of journalism in Ireland has been drowned in a sea of whingeing from vested interests with an enormous sense of entitlement, and who see the media as nothing more then their own personal moral megaphone.

For much of the existence of this state, the Catholic Church has been at the top of that particular queue, and to a certain extent it still is.

But there can be no obligation for the media to be “balanced” when the arguments put forth are anything but.

Freedom of speech is about being able to say whatever you want – but it does not and should not oblige anyone else to give you a platform to spout bilious irrelevant nonsense.

Also implicit in freedom of speech is that your opinions and your motivations will be rigorously teased out and tested.

Freedom of speech means that you are free to think and to say and to write what you like – but no-one is under any obligation to publish or broadcast it, or  indeed to listen to it or read it.

The Marriage Referendum debate has been a failure of the Irish Fourth Estate, but it is not entirely the fault of journalism.

We need to understand that in some issues the public is in broad agreement, and that giving 50% of airtime in such situations is only going to cause unnecessary hurt and damage to fellow citizens.

We need to recognise that the media ultimately does not tell us what to think – only what to think about. Our families and our peers have a much greater influence on how our opinions are formed than any op-ed piece or self-aggrandising debate contribution ever could have.

In short, we need to learn that balance cannot exist, and exercise common sense instead. There are many rights that come with citizenship but one of the most important responsibilities we have is to understand the consequences of exercising our vote.

And that’s something nobody should be relying on the media for.

 

 

Leo’s announcement greeted by dog whistles

“I am a gay man.”

Leo Varadkar’s coming-out on Miriam O Callaghan’s radio show prompted a chorus of dog whistles from the anti-equality zealots

Almost as soon as the words were out of Leo Varadkar’s mouth, you could hear the dog whistles beginning.

Dog-whistle politics - the art of saying something that has an additional significance or resonance for a target group – is nothing new.

It’s a favoured trick of those who would oppress others.

And given their pronouncements in the wake of Leo’s coming-out party, the anti-marriage equality campaign is entirely based on it.

They want to talk about children.

And only about children.

Because they want you to think that gay people are a danger to children.

They want you to think that gay people are paedophiles, because people who hear that dog whistle and believe it are not likely to vote for marriage equality.

They don’t care about the fact that there is no evidence to back up their smears.

Or the fact that in some cases academic research actually shows that children in same-sex families fare as well as, if not better than, kids in their mammy-daddy-two-point-four-children-saying-the-rosary fantasy.

They want you to believe that not only are gay people paedophiles, but that they choose to be that way.

And if they’re given the chance, they will convince any children in their care to grow up to be gay too.

Because people who hear that dog whistle about the gay-paedo-recruiter and believe that being gay is a choice are more likely to vote no to equal status for people they believe to be evil, conniving paedophiles intent on increasing their numbers.

There is a twisted logic to all this, of course; the very people who hear these dog whistles and want you to believe that gay people are paedophiles (which they’re not) are big fans of the Catholic Church.

Who, of course, are famous around the world for moving actual paedophiles around to keep them out of prison, allowing them to abuse more children in the process.

The only way to counteract the dog-whistles is to call the religious hounds to heel by metaphorically rubbing their noses in their own anti-gay do-do.

Every time the anti-equality side brings up the issue, they should be asked the question – why are you trying to portray gay people as a danger to children?

If the question is asked, politely and persistently, there are only two possible answers.

The first is that, contrary to appearances, they don’t believe they are a danger to children, which of course negates every child-related argument that comes thereafter.

In other words, their bark a lot worse than their bite.

Or they show their true colours – that they suffer from an irrational fear of, or aversion to, gay people.

In short, they are homophobes.

And no amount of trying to smear gay people as a danger to children can ever hide that fact.

 

 

We all killed Johnny Corrie

The loudest sound in Ireland today is the echo of the empty words around the death of Johnny Corrie.

Once again, the airwaves are full of the breast-beaters, filling their lungs on the oxygen of publicity while ignoring their own complicity.

And we are all complicit in Johnny’s death.

The very politicians who slashed the services that might have helped the dead Kilkenny man now elbow their way to the plinth at Leinster House – a stone’s throw from where Johhny died – to proclaim their dedication to the cause of homelessness.

As long as it doesn’t cost anything of course, and only until the headlines run out.

Elsewhere, the leaders of the Catholic church, whose legacy of institutionalised abuse causes hundreds, if not thousands, of traumatised Irish victims to seek solace in drugs and drink every day, has promised to act.

But the reparations due to the adults that became of the children they raped and abused remain unpaid. At every turn, they refuse to cough up the cash they have hoarded, swindled from the Irish people from behind a facade of piety.

And those of us who walk the streets of our cities have nothing to be proud of, either.

How many of us have contemptuously called people like Johnny scobes and junkies and scumbags?

How many of us have described them as a blight on our cities, an eyesore, a problem to be solved?

How many of us have laughed on a night out as we kicked their paper cups, telling them to “get a fuckin’ job” instead?”

How many of us went to the polls at the last election and voted for permanent austerity, ensuring that the first services to be cut would be the ones that might save the lives of people like Johnny?

How many of us have pursed our lips and piously proclaimed “I won’t give them money, because they’ll only spend it on drink or drugs”?

It may come as a shock to your middle-class sensibilities, but to an addict, drink and drugs are a very important part of their day; in fact you could say they are the most important part of it.

Even more so, on occasion, than having a roof over their heads. Everything else comes second. And if you don’t give them money, they’ll get it somewhere else.

What we have have created a society where the market decides who gets to have a home, and what kind of home it is.

We have created a society that says everyone is equal, until they slip up.

We have created a society that looks down patronisingly on those who live on the streets, without ever asking what it was that put them there, or offering them anything like a reasonable chance to turn things around.

And even in Johnny’s terrible death, the class card is played.

Johnny, we are told by the Irish Independent, “came from a caring family, but struggled with addiction problems since his teens.”

As if the families of other addicts don’t care.

As if the deaths of working-class addicts don’t matter.

As if addiction is selective.

Then the Indo tells us that “despite the best efforts of his parents and services, he could not defeat his demons” – something you never see written about a drug addict from Fatima Mansions or Dolphin’s Barn.

Sophie Pigot is rightly praised for not stepping over Johnny’s corpse and instead getting a policeman at Leinster House to call for an ambulance – but is this what we have come to?

Have we fallen so far as a society that we must make a heroine of someone who does exactly what one is supposed to do when they see another human being in need?

Johnny Corrie died in a Dublin doorway on December 1 2014, but he didn’t die alone.

Every one of us played a part in creating the country in which he could die so publicly, so helplessly, so needlessly.

We all stood over him as he passed on.

And none of us did anything, and now it’s too late.

 

 

 

Caught with our Pantis down

Fearless journalist/broadcaster Brendan O’Connor executes the most embarrassing climbdown in Irish TV history.

This week’s fallout from the Panti Bliss interview on RTE has once again put Irish media to the test.

Once again Irish media has failed with flying colours.

Last night Brendan O’Connor made a pained apology for any offense caused by comments made on the show, pointing out that they were not the views of RTE.

Well, duh.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Irish Times – the paper of record – made no link between the resignation of John Waters from the board of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and his alleged threats of legal action against RTE.

Contrast this with the brave stance of the Guardian, which has suffered all manner of threats from David Cameron’s government due to its publication of Edward Snowden’s revelations.

But rather than display a bit of backbone, it seems that, thanks to the the flurry of solicitor’s letters from Iona, it has now become the elephant in the room in Irish media – the discussion that cannot be discussed under any circumstances.

Silent in all this is David Quinn, founder of the odious Iona Institute. I have asked him several times on Twitter about his legal threats to RTE and Rory O’Neill (aka Panti Bliss), but he hasn’t yet responded.

Nor has he answered my query about RTE’s offer of a right to reply to the allegations that the Iona Institute is a homophobic organisation, which was allegedly turned down by Quinn.

The intention of all of this is to kill the debate in Ireland as to what constitutes homophobia and whether or not Iona and journalist John Waters are homophobic.

Whatever way you look at it, the disappearance of the debate from mainstream media – a debate that has raged for two weeks on social media – suggests several things.

RTE has been cowed.

The Irish Times – which publishes Waters’ musings – has looked the other way.

And the rest of Irish media is in no hurry to draw the attention of Iona’s legal eagles to itself.

That would force you to wonder who wrote the apology read out by O’Connor on Satruday night.

It’s an important part of democratic debate that people must be able to hold dissenting views on controversial issues.

… as long as they agree with those of the Iona Institute, it would seem.

Rather than being cowed by legal threats, surely the media has very valid questions to ask – starting with exactly who Iona represent, and where they get their money.

The views expressed by Iona – especially in relation to gay people – are very much at odds with the liberal secular society that Ireland has become. Indeed, Rory O’Neill suggested that the only time he experiences homophobia is online or at the hands of Iona and Waters.

When they’re done with that, they can ask why Iona is given so much room in the media. In any other country in the world, an organisation as litigious as Iona would never be asked to participate in anything. Nor would anybody else with their solicitor on speed dial.

When all that is over, perhaps someone would sit down and ask Quinn, Waters et al to explain how their utterances – perceived by almost everyone apart from themselves and their supporters as being homophobic – are acceptable.

For Iona, Quinn and Waters, it might be a hard sell. Take this quote from an interview with Waters:

This is really a kind of satire on marriage which is being conducted by the gay lobby. It’s not that they want to get married; they want to destroy the institution of marriage because they’re envious of it…

Now if you believe – as Waters suggests earlier in that interview – that marriage is a fundamental building block of society, then he is essentially accusing the gay lobby (many of whom are presumably gay themselves) of trying to destroy it.

How, exactly, is that not homophobic?

Is it reasonable to suggest that gay people are, in trying to secure equal treatment in the eyes of the law, trying to destroy the very fabric of society?

No, it isn’t.

So what should they have done?

Well, if he disagreed with the apology, O’Connor – a columnist with the Sunday Independent and thus not without either power or a platform to exert it – should have resigned.

In the interests of public service, RTE should have stood by its man. If they were to go to court – as evidenced above, examples of the irrational fear of homosexuality displayed by both Waters and Iona are not hard to find – they wouldn’t be without hope of winning.

But it is the Irish Times and the rest of the media that is probably deserving of the most criticism. It is one of the functions of mass media to provide a platform for debate, but yet again they have abdicated this responsibility.

It may be expensive to defend oneself against even the most frivolous of libel accusations in Ireland, but the price for not doing so is the ability to report and to comment without fear or favour.

The views expressed by Rory O’Neill are not those of RTE, but they are those of many people in the gay community.

His airing them on an RTE program is the very point of public service, and of mass media in general – to provide a platform for debate and scrutiny, and for holding people to account.

It should be remembered that Ireland has, since its inception, struggled in terms of holding those in power to account, whether it be politicians, religious leaders or captains of industry.

All have at various points used the solicitors to muzzle reporting and debate.

But in the end, all of them were eventually caught with their Pantis down.

 

 

 

Switch off, tune in, chill out this Christmas

A word to the wise this yuletide – as you go into battle with other Christmas shoppers to get the last few bits for what you hope will be the perfect celebration, there is one simple choice you can make to bring your family and friends closer.

As you approach the trenches of tills, under constant attack from dawn to dusk, you will see them.

Cardboard-packed sentries, sleek lines of lithium soldiers with their indisputable message.

Gaudy signs saying “Don’t Forget the Batteries!” conjure up images of crying children and frustrated fathers, and mothers quietly tearful as Christmas is consigned to failure because of some piece of plastic lacking a few volts.

But we must resist; leave them there at the till, and silence whatever emerges from under your Christmas tree for a few brief hours.

And if you do insist on buying them to power your presents, put them in a pile with all your chargers and transformers and gadgets, and leave them until the 26th instead.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no luddite technophobe. I spend 364 days a year online or in motion, photographing, filming, recording, monitoring, reading, filing.

There is barely a moment in my day when I’m not within touching distance of a screen or a social network.

My office is so full of gadgets (media players, quadcopters and cameras) that I can barely get in the door.

But given all the heartache we have heard in the run-up to Christmas about emigration and poverty and homelessness, this year I want to put them all to one side and just enjoy the people I’ll be spending time with.

This cannot be done while Instagramming a turkey, or while Googling “100 best Android apps” for the niece’s new tablet.

(The fact that she’s not yet two has me wondering if it’s the right present at all).

If you’re lucky enough to have a roof over your head, and some good friends or a loving family to spend it with, hit the “Off” button.

Power everything down, and put it in the middle of the table, and if anyone should crack and head for Facebook, let them do the washing-up.

Make a rule that if it can only be done by one person, or seen on one screen, it’s out.

Instead, do things together. Watch a movie, play a board game, listen to music, talk, cook, laugh. Sing. Dance. Have the craic. Just don’t do it alone, if at all possible.

Do the things that make Christmas memorable – pull a cracker, stick a hat on, catch up, tell rubbish jokes, eat, drink and be merry.

Bring in the neighbour on the night-shift, and give her a turkey sandwich and a whiskey or tea.

Remember too those around you who are not as fortunate, and instead of stepping over them or ignoring them, throw them a kind word or a couple of euro, even if it’s not ultimately going to be spent on a hostel – we will not solve the problems of homelessness or addiction over just one Christmas, so we may as well try to make people suffering from them feel loved and comfortable until we do.

I guarantee I’m not going to find this easy, and nor will most – we have become so entwined in gadgets and communication that we barely have an offline life anymore.

But spending so much time looking at life through a lens or on a screen, it recently occurred to me that the best stories are still the ones you hear face to face, from real, living, flesh-and-blood creatures.

So screw the batteries, and the chargers and the broadband this Christmas; forget them all, but don’t forget your family, your friends or your fellow man.

They’ll light up this dark time of the year better than any shiny online gadget ever could.

Sing when your losing

“It says here that we’re out of the bailout.” – Enda Kenny, telling you whatever he’s told to tell you.

The celebrations have already begun. The spinning is already reaching fever pitch.

Ministers are saying, among other things, that the bailout is over, there will be no crock of gold, and austerity will continue.

More of the same, in other words.

But sure aren’t we great all the same?

Ireland is indeed exiting its bailout, and it will culminate in a TV address by Enda Kenny on Sunday.

I won’t be watching.

If I was, I’d expect to hear him “thank” the Irish people for the “sacrifices” that they have made.

No mention will be made of the fact that they were never asked whether they wanted to make these sacrifices or not, nor will there be a word about the  money and the future that was stolen from them.

Instead, fueled more by ego than egalitarianism, the most powerless leader in Europe will waffle his way through some platitudes about “the best little country in the world to do business” and what great Europeans we all are.

Once again you will be told that there was no choice – there was no other way.

Then you’ll be told the banks are well-capitalised, and that Ireland is back in the markets and well-funded, and not to pay any attention to the shiver that that news sends down your spine as the ghost of Brian Lenihan flits across your screen.

Of course, no journalist will be allowed into the studio while this farce takes place, nor will the opposition have a chance to question him. Enda doesn’t do debate. He doesn’t do accountability. He doesn’t answer questions. Mostly because he can’t.

Stilted, slow-witted, he limits himself to reading what it says on the card. Understanding it is not a prerequisite. You are being talked at, not to.

If I could, I’d skip Enda’s narcissistic news bulletin and instead invite everyone available to join me outside the GPO, where we can all bring our bodhráns and get decked out in our green jerseys and flags and sing a few songs.

And just at the moment he commences his pointless spoofery on RTE, we can all burst into “The Fields of Athenry”, the song that under Giovanni Trapattoni became our anthem of failure when hopelessly outclassed in Europe.

In this context it is even more fitting, given its depiction of poor folk persecuted by the authorities and forced to leave for Australia against their will.

The irony would be lost on Enda, but not on the fathers and mothers contemplating Christmas alone as their offspring celebrate on a beach on the other side of the world.

And when we’re done singing our bitter hymns of longing and failure, we can all go home again and change nothing, because that is what we do.

We accept that the wealth of the nation is given away. We accept the narrative that it is the poor, and not the ruling class or the speculators, that are really to blame.

We’ll go back to laughing at careerist civil servants and their attempts to hold on to their pensions, all the while electing careerist politicians too simple and dull to facilitate the meaningful change that would be required, not to create a just society, but just to manage a bearable one.

We will quietly admit that the concept of the fighting Irish is very much an American construct and has little to do with the supine manner in which we have surrendered our democracy to men like Enda Kenny and Colm Keavney.

And in doing so we will admit that we deserve no better, because we are no longer prepared to fight for what is right. And we probably never were.

And in the meantime, those a long way from the fields of Athenry will look back at Ireland and wonder why anyone bothers to stay at all – apart from gormless Enda and the rest of the privileged few, that is.

 

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.