During the revolutionary period in Ireland – by academic convention the six years from 1916 to 1921 – the British government authorised the official execution of forty-one Irish Republican insurgents or their supporters (I say “official” since many unofficial or summary executions were carried out by the UK Forces well away from the façade of colonial justice). In contrast during the short counter-revolutionary civil war of 1922-23 the Nationalist leaders of the new Irish Free State and the Irish National Army took responsibility for the execution of seventy-seven “Anti-Treaty” Republican prisoners (leaving to one side the dozens of unclaimed killings by the INA). In the words of W. T. Cosgrave, the president of the IFS puppet-regime:
“I am not going to hesitate and if the country is to live and if we have to exterminate 10,000 Republicans…”
True to his word Cosgrave and his colleagues made no hesitation in wading through the blood of their fellow countrymen and -women while defending their betrayal of the republic proclaimed in 1916 and ratified by the national election-referendums of 1918, 1920 and 1921. The “Pro-Treaty” faction established in “southern Ireland” or the “26 Counties” a paranoid police-state, a theocratic polity where tens of thousands were imprisoned or fled into exile, where a plurality of political views were barely tolerated, where the old and young were treated with disdain, and where female citizens were regarded as little more than baby-bearing chattels. In essence they put into practice the conservative nationalist vision of John Redmond and his Irish Parliamentary Party rather than the radical republican visions of Patrick Pearse or James Connolly.
Despite the election of a Fianna Fáil government in 1932, which represented the majority of Republicans defeated by the Nationalists some nine years earlier, and the significant constitutional changes it brought – transforming the Irish Free State into the nation-state of Ireland and the re-established republic in all but name (fifteen years after its usurpation) – the authoritarian ways of old remained intact. Through such mechanisms the civil war parties maintained their hegemony over the country, a de facto “two party state” (albeit occasionally propped up by minor would-be establishment parties and a co-operative press). In these circumstances any challenge to the duopoly, however innocuous, was regarded as an existential threat. It seems that several decades on the attitudes of the “continuity state” are as censorious in the 21st century as they were in the 20th, as can be seen in this extraordinary report from Krank.ie:
“Labour TD and former minister Pat Rabbitte has made a scathing attack on RTÉ, claiming the broadcaster is “acting as recruiting sergeant for far left and Sinn Fein” over their coverage of the anti-water charge movement.
The politician questioned why the public service broadcaster had not created numerous programmes about the water system and pollution, claiming that an employee inside RTÉ must be using “distorted information, half-truths and bits of emails and internal papers” to ground a bias.
The extraordinary attack comes after months of criticism for RTÉ over coverage of the anti-water charge movement. Protesters feel that the station has not been giving the issue balanced coverage, while incidents such as Ryan Tubridy’s aggressive interview with Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy only strengthened perceptions of bias.”
This of course is the same Pat Rabbitte who in the 1980s and early ’90s was a member of the far left (Official Sinn Féin) Workers Party, a political organisation whose armed military wing, the Official IRA, was in existence until the 2000s (and quite possibly still is). Rabbitte spilt from the WP in 1992, pursuing a quest for power that would eventually lead him to command of the Labour Party in 2002, primarily on the back of a putsch by fellow-travellers within the party. The authoritarian paranoia of the Dublin South-West TD is given succour from a familiar source, former right-wing Progressive Democrats deputy Liz O’Donnell, writing in the Irish Independent newspaper:
“I listen to the radio a lot and find myself shouting at it. As a daily consumer of news, and current affairs in particular, I find journalists are regularly aggressive to the point of being rude to political interviewees. TV3 viewers have become accustomed to the Vincent Browne School of bullying and the swashbuckling George Hook and Ivan Yates style, which may be acceptable in the private sector. But RTé is a public service broadcaster, funded by the tax payer and the State. This requires at very least a respect for the institutions of State, including the Dáil, and democratically elected TDs and ministers. Yesterday’s bizarre radio interview with Sinead O’Connor which inter alia trashed the gardaí and eulogised republicans was a case in point.
Over the last few years, a style of questioning has become de rigeur in RTé current affairs, which is accusatory and carping. The economic collapse has provided a context whereby the focus is always on the negative in every story. When talking to ministers, some journalists are inclined to act as a proxy for the dissident and populist point of view of the far left and the malcontents.”
It is more common to hear political dissidents being lauded by the Western liberal classes for challenging unjust laws and government policies than being vilified and excoriated. However such is the nature of those who form the Neo-Ascendancy in Ireland that they can turn protesters into “terrorists”, a case made all the stronger by the sinister “satirical” image accompanying O’Donnell’s specious opinion piece; as classic a bit of Orwellian visual propaganda as you are likely to see.
Talking of which, Eoghan Harris, former WP entryist in RTÉ and weekly columnist for the Irish Independent, is always on hand with his own half-baked version of “newspeak”:
“From the start of the armed struggle, I always felt that the Provisional IRA posed a special threat to Irish democracy because of our ambivalence about political violence.
That is why I took such a hard line in support of Section 31 which prevented Provo IRA spokespersons – but not their supporters – from making propaganda on RTE.
So I was a bit baffled by Pat Rabbitte’s broadside against RTE last week. Why didn’t he deal with the problem himself when he was Minister for Communications?”
Outside of some Latin American or Middle Eastern dictatorships where else would you witness “journalists” acting as the champions of censorship and proponents of government-regulated free speech? Of course Harris’ own political journey from the further left to the further right of Irish politics is well known, even if he would rather forget it (or revise it). Fortunately there are others who lived through that period and they are not so forgetful – or fearful of the real power in the Dublin media establishment. Ed Moloney on The Broken Elbow:
“My first thought on reading his piece was that Harris had one hell of a nerve complaining about the media ignoring the story of a political party seeking office in Ireland while continuing to operate an armed wing.
My, my! Aren’t Irish memories conveniently short? It wasn’t so long ago that Mr Harris’ comrades in the Workers Party (WP) were doing exactly the same as Sinn Fein is doing now, lying about the existence of its armed wing as they sought office.
The truth was that the Workers Party had infiltrated The IrishTimes and much of the media – as well as semi-state bodies scattered throughout Ireland. The purpose was to bend them all in the direction of the WP’s ideology. And I don’t recall Mr Harris complaining about that!
Not only that but back in 1982 Harris ruled the news and current affairs section of RTE with an iron rod, inflicting a Stalinist-like purge of the station of any elements not considered reliable on the anti-Provo question, while advancing the careers of WP fellow travelers and imposing a WP analysis on the news stories of the day, especially those North of the Border.
When you think about it Harris is the last person in Ireland who should be lecturing the media about ethics or their refusal/reluctance to cover certain stories!
Manipulating the news and current affairs coverage of the national broadcaster to suit the ideology of a party of which you and many or your staff are secret members, is a far greater sin in my book. Irish journalism has still not recovered from the experience.
Those few journalists who did try to tell the truth about the WP were not only the target of venomous verbal attacks but came under physical threat as well.”