Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sindo hysteria fools nobody

Hysteria is defined as an extreme emotion which cannot be controlled. A person so afflicted is described as hysterical.  And we often describe things as hysterically funny.

The latest round in the long-running anti-Sinn Féin crusade by Independent newspapers is hysterical in both senses.

The editorial staff of the Sunday Independent, in particular, seem to have lost their reason with their weekly frenzied attacks on me personally and on Sinn Féin and republicans in general.

And the attempt to portray part of my response to all this as an implied threat to journalists is laughable. It is ludicrous.

I simply pointed out that the IRA under Michael Collins, whose political legacy is claimed by many of Sinn Féin’s worst detractors, attacked the office of the Irish Independent and destroyed the printing presses.

I was pointing to the hypocrisy and inconsistency of a view that portrays the IRA of 1919 as freedom fighters but labels the IRA of 1979 as terrorists.

Some have questioned the accuracy of what I wrote. For the record, the IRA attack took place on 21 December 1919.

Two days previously the IRA had attempted to ambush and execute the British Lord Lieutenant French at the Phoenix Park. The attempt failed and a young Volunteer, Martin Savage, was killed.

The Irish Independent called the ambush “a dreadful plan of assassination” and described Martin Savage as “an assassin”.

Led by Peadar Clancy, a group of IRA men entered the Independent offices, told the editor the paper was being suppressed for having “endeavoured to misrepresent the sympathies and opinions of the Irish people”, and smashed up the printing press, for which the paper later received £15,000 in damages. (See Ian Kenneally ‘The Paper Wall: Newspapers and Propaganda in Ireland 1919-1921’, the Collins Press, 2008).

But this was an isolated incident. The most serious attacks on freedom of the press then and since have come from Governments.

Newspaper censorship was widespread under British rule. At the start of the Civil War the new Free State government censored newspaper reports and the Cabinet even criticized the Irish Independent for having an “unsatisfactory attitude toward the Government” and decided that if it persisted “drastic action would be necessary”. (See Maryann Gialanela Valulis ‘General Richard Mulcahy and the Founding of the Irish Free State’, Irish Academic Press 1992.)

Successive Governments were responsible for widespread censorship of books and films, as well as political censorship.

This narrow minded attitude resulted in the most famous and talented Irish authors being banned in their own country, including Joyce, Beckett, Sean O'Casey, Brendan Behan, Sean O'Faolain, John B. Keane, John McGahern, and Edna O'Brien.

Younger people today find it hard to believe that from 1972 to 1993 Sinn Féin voices were banned from the airwaves under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act.

It seems that the editorial team of Independent newspapers today can dish out the strongest abuse they can think of, in article after article, but they cannot take a sentence of criticism. Instead they resort to describing such criticism as threats to them personally.

People are no longer fooled by this nonsense. They now have a wide variety of sources for news, thanks to the internet and social media in all its forms.

The genie is out of the bottle and all the hysteria in the Indo won’t get it back again.

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