In today’s Irish Independent newspaper regular columnist Eoghan Harris recounts a forty year old tale that perfectly illustrates the perverse thinking that long ago corrupted the ethical heart of journalism in Ireland. It relates to a clash between a local Irish-speaking community in Galway and the infamous Language Freedom Movement (LFM), a supremacist Anglophone grouping opposed to Hibernophone rights, and Harris’ reporting of the controversy for RTÉ (note that I have corrected the numerous spelling mistakes found in the original opinion piece):
“In June 1969, the Feach team, with Diarmaid as reporter and myself as producer, covered a dispute about the Irish language in Ahascragh, Co Galway, between a branch of the Language Freedom Movement and the local school principal and famous sean-nós singer, the late Seán Mac Donnacha.
Filming the protagonists, we found a spokesperson for the LFM had a slight speech impediment. Normally this might not have mattered much. But Seán Mac Donnacha, who spoke for the Irish language side, was líofa in both languages. So his side was going to come across a lot more clearly than the LFM side.
This should not have bothered us. Regular viewers of TG4 programmes will have noticed that some Irish language producers feel free to fly the green flag regardless. But Diarmaid and myself believed in balance. Although we nearly missed our deadline, we finally found someone in the LFM who could match the screen status of Seán Mac Donnacha.”
In other words Eoghan Harris as a television news producer in 1969 altered the presentation of the news to a form he judged more editorially acceptable. He bolstered the argument of one side in a politically-motivated dispute by setting out to find a better spokesperson than the one they themselves had nominated. And all in the name of “balance”. Fox News how are ya?! More like Harris News!