Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finally! The media goes for Libertas


Finally, finally, finally, somebody is sitting up and taking notice. To be fair to the IT's Colm Keena, he was the first national journalist to do so, in today's edition (sub needed).

There have been mutterings of this for months. The Galway business community are up in arms at 'one of their own' (Ganley) departing from party line (IBEC, Galway Chamber, most recently the Irish Alliance for Europe Western branch) in such a drastic way.

Dr Chris Coughlan, incoming President of Chambers Ireland, is a founding member of Libertas, along with Dr Roger Downer (former University of Limerick President), Eamonn Cregan (Downer's right-hand man in UL), and a host of Ganley employees... who work for his military communications company, Rivada Networks. The majority of Rivada contracts are with the US military. Ulick McEvaddy is another big Libertas-head.

So where is the connection?
Downer - best remembered in UL for his wonderful fundraising techniques... in the US.
Ganley - gets all his business (multi million, at the very least) from the US military.
McEvaddy - does all his business with the US military.
Other founders - work for Ganley.

What a cuddly organisation. Add to that the noxious John McGuirk and the neo-conservative politico David Cochrane, and you really have something special.

To be fair to another person I usually don't have much time for, Lucinda Creighton seems to have press released about this ages ago. But where was the pick-up?

The possibility of any involvement by the US military in an Irish referendum brings, to me at least, a shiver down my spine. This is like something from a Tom Clancy novel. And we should be, not just pooh-poohing, but really really worried about it.

The world's biggest 'defender of democracy' is trying to interfere in a democratic decision of the Irish people. And Libertas claim to be worried about our sovereignty!

Monday, May 19, 2008

... And you thought I was being paranoid

To be fair, that's usually an entirely accurate assumption. But not in this case. In the mysterious case of 'who has it in for Cowen,' I appear to have been right. (Ha!)

This week's Sindo:
Page 1
Disquiet in FF at Cowen 'dictator' style (contd. page 2 with large headline)

Page 2
Opulent Phoenix Park lodge set to become 'Fortress Cowen'

Page 32 (quite a gap, I admit)
There is less to Cowen than meets the eye

Page 33
Cowen has good reason to mind those closest to him

Also Page 33
Taoiseach must play ball if bigger prize is to be realised
(with subtitle: Worryingly, complacency, timidity and waste have characterised Brian Cowen's early days in office)

... AND ...

To add insult to injury - the magazine runs a four-page piece on how ugly, fat and unstylish he is.

Please let me reiterate that I am not, nor have ever been, a Fianna Fáil supporter. I prefer Cowen to Bertie because I believe he is (more) honest, but he is not my ideal Taoiseach by any stretch of the imagination.

Despite this, I'm willing to give the guy a chance. He is entering power at a time of negative consumer and political sentiment:

- The economy is looking dodgy;
- The future of Ireland in Europe is looking dodgy;
- The world is generally not a happy place (see earthquakes and other natural disasters).

He has a tough enough time ahead of him as it is, without making it personal.

I don't believe in making politics personal. While the Sindo spent the past ten years fawning frantically over Bertie, this was an arrangement with which he was obviously happy. And bully for him.

But Cowen is a private man, with a family that deserves some privacy. And the merits of his policies and his suitability to govern should not be judged on the thickness of his lips, his glasses, or his accent (which, by the way, was finely honed at that posh boy factory, Roscrea).

Also, what happened to the notion of balanced reporting? The Sindo "quotes" "several" TDs in its front page article. None of whom are named, and none of whom offer a dissenting view. As a journalist myself I find this disquieting. There are plenty of people who believe everything they read (I was reminded of this recently when I met someone in a pub who believed the Lisbon Treaty meant we would all be electronically tagged). These people don't realise there is an agenda and do not take more than a passing glance at a newspaper - passing, but enough to lodge key messages in their minds. That's how advertising works.

And just when I was beginning to wonder where this charge was being led from... up pops everyone's favourite Marx brother, Willie O'Dea, on Page 27, bringing Lisbon to the people.

Willie O'Dea, who wasn't promoted by Brian Cowen in the recent reshuffle, despite major constituency expectations. And who was severely reprimanded for garnering almost the same (record) amount of votes as Cowen in last year's election, and yet failing to bring in a third seat in a five-seater constituency.

Coincidentally, there is a rather vindictive attack on O'Dea's heretofore relatively unknown constituency colleague, Peter Power, on Page 33. Power got a promotion last week, making 'Limerick's Minister' a rather smaller fish in the city pond.


Monday, May 12, 2008

... So it's not just the Sindo

Them Dubs on p.ie have a problem with him too, it seems. Sorry, not him, the people of Clara and surrounding area.

Although I'm not from the Midlands (and must confess I detest the accent), I felt I must stand up for them! Here is my response to the accusations of Killinascullyism:

Conversations like this are precisely the reason it's good for us to have a country Taoiseach again.

As someone from a rural background but living in cities for the past 6 years, it constantly amazes me when I go home that there is no ATM, no decent coffee, no broadband, no bus service, no bank and nothing to do except go to the pub.

I'm not saying a country Taoiseach will fix all of this (especially not the first two :D ) but I think his presence might refocus the attention of the Dublin media on the fact that a lot of us live outside the Pale, some of us even in places where celebrations such as the one we saw over the weekend would be a great sign of community and togetherness, precisely the things Bertie used to witter on about but never actually practiced.

Despite all Bertie's talk of community and social cohesion, he never appeared to do much about it. He knew the people of Drumcondra (or they knew him) and he liked to go to Fagan's. That was about the size of it.

Cowen, on the other hand, has a big family history in Clara. His father had the local pub, he was TD for the area, and he himself grew up there. His kids go to school there.

And the people of Clara wanted to celebrate one of their own in their own way, which is not unlike the 'own way' of most small towns in this country.

As for the references to Killinaskully, my homeplace is not a million miles from Pat Shortt's, and, although it pained me to admit it for a long time, I recognised most of the characters in it. But how is that something to be ashamed of? I would rather have a Pat Shortt character living next door to me than anyone from Fair City...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cowen and the Sunday Indo

What is it about Bertie and the Sunday Indo?

My family used to buy the Sunday Indo religiously. Not for any political reason, but it was just 'our paper', same as the Limerick Leader on a Thursday and the Irish Times on a Saturday. Until the summer of 2003, that is.

That summer the Sindo really 'came into its own'; at least, it became what we know today. That year saw the meteoric rise of Brendan O'Connor, to the extent that he now graces both the front and back page every week, the '03 team (journalism at its finest, may I say) and then the creation of Bertie Ahern, Superstar.

Seriously. Every single Sunday for the entire summer, Bertie (and Celia/and Cecelia/and Westlife/and Bono/and a pint of Bass) was on the front page. The paper charted the demise of Bertie and Celia in such a dogged way that, however well the relationship was going at the May Bank Holiday, by the Galway Races it was doomed.

So, having created Bertie the pop star, the paper is now lamenting his demise. With Brendan O'Connor writing a particularly excruciating op/ed (has he ever written anything containing fact?) today, deploring us for our fickleness and willingness to desert our Bert.

Would that he had lasted 100 years and made the Sindo his personal newsletter - only then would Brendan be happy, doing weekly 'at homes' with Bertie and going to the odd match with him. As Bertie doesn't have his own house, maybe he can just move in with Brendan and they can start an odd couple diary, happily growing old together. Or something.

(Actually, have just remembered the 'Bertie Ahern: Diary of my Last Days' piece highlighted on the front page - maybe Brendan is ghost-writing, because if Bertie writes the way he talks it won't make for comfortable reading.)

But I digress. What's bothering me today is the way they really seem to have it in for Cowen. Now, it's true that Biffo is not an oil painting, and that he's not what you'd call slick. And he's from the country. All three of these things are obviously inherently offensive to the Sindo.

But de paper is really really putting the boot in to our new Taoiseach, and, other than the reasons above, I don't really get why...

Front page headline: 'Shadow of slump over Cowen glory'... continued on page 5. Along with an analysis of why Bertie 'comes out tops' in the psychologist's chair.
Page 16 off-lead: 'Shiny-suited Goodfellas make way for the strong silent country folk'

... It's at page 26 that the heavies get going...

Editorial: 'Mr Cowen is off to a poor start'
Page 26 lead: 'Who put these people in charge? It wasn't us'
Page 27 lead: 'Ahern can't let it all end like this, he must rise above the bitterness' (written by, guess who, our friend Brendan)

... I understand the need to record change, and to mark such a major occasion in the short history of our country. After all, Cowen is only the 12th Taoiseach of this country, so he is joining a very elite group, whatever we may think of his predecessors in the cold light of retrospection. Which would suggest to me, as a citizen and a journalist, that, while it is time to outline the challenges he is facing and to judge the legacy of his predecessor, it's not the time to condemn him.

There will be plenty of time for that.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Irresponsible drinking

Now, I'm not a parent. Let me just say that before I can be accused of not having a leg to stand on!

But the case of the Irish couple whose kids were taken off them in Portugal because they got so drunk is something else. While I completely agree that they should not have got so drunk, and that the authorities were right to remove the kids from them while they recovered, it has to be acknowledged that there is a bigger issue here.

Irish parents do this all the time. In Ireland. And who looks after the kids then?

I've known families in my own home village to spend the entire weekend in the pub, with kids going from pub to shop, sitting out on the street and waiting, just waiting, for their parents to get drunk enough so that someone will give them a lift to their home, miles away. And who looked after them?

Nobody. Because here we have a culture of not interfering. While it was well-known that that family followed the same pattern every week, who was going to interfere and make sure those children were safe and well? Because that would entail a) suggesting there's something wrong with drinking yourself stupid and b) interfering in 'someone else's business'.

And those are two things Irish people are not good at. While we are all going around tut-tutting and using our well rehearsed exclamations of disgust, it might be time for us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what we would have done in the same situation as the hotel staff.

Irish hotel staff probably would have manoeuvred the couple back to their room and kept the kids occupied (in the bar!) while they slept it off.