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Pól Ó Lorcáin
Paul Larkin

Chroniclers are privileged to enter where they list, to come and go through keyholes, to ride upon the wind, to overcome in their soarings up and down, all obstacles of distance, time and place.
Charles Dickens - Barnaby Rudge, Chapter The Ninth

Stephen Collins and a parody of political analysis

In Saturday’s Irish Times (30th of January, 2010), political commentator Steven Collins served up possibly the worst example of political analysis I have ever seen in this our only ‘paper of record’ (allegedly). Stephen Collins does not like the Good Friday Agreement.

In fact his antipathy towards the Good Friday Agreement is so great that he does not even make a pretence of journalistic analysis but rather chooses to ignore the historical facts and vents his partitionist spleen at what he describes as pandering (I paraphrase) to the “extremes” of Northern politics. These extremes, needless to say, are Sinn Féin on the “Catholic” Side and Ian Paisley’s DUP on the Protestant side.

The article can be viewed here:

With the headline – ‘Why enforced power sharing is inherently unhealthy’, Collins lambastes the political structure that has been put in place in the six counties following the Good Friday Agreement and tells us that former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former British Prime minister Tony Blair must “take a large share of the blame” for abandoning the centre ground of Northern Irish politics to “hardliners”.

Collins simply cannot hide his exasperation and tells us that suspicions about the GFA “grew and festered” in the years after 1998 when the agreement was signed. Collins’ scintillating analysis doesn’t quantify this statement. We don’t know who exactly it was that was “festering” during all this time but Collins is an impeccable journalist so we can take it as a given that there were indeed an awful lot of people who were “growing and festering” because of their dismay at the political settlement in the North.

To be fair, Collins gives a strong clue as to the constituency from whence all this wailing and gnashing of teeth at the GFA comes, and lo and behold, it is “ordinary people”. Yes, at the end of his article, Collins says that the demise of the power sharing arrangement in the North might actually be a good thing because this would give the two governments “time to listen to the views of “ordinary people”. Aha! So it is ordinary people who are festering about the GFA.

Now, Collins has a difficulty here and it is not just confined to the fact that he would not know an ordinary person if he fell over him in the street on the way to check his investment portfolio. You see, as a political commentator, he is expected to give details and supporting information so as to give credence to his arguments. This is a basic tenet of journalism since the rules of “rhetoric” were formulated in the days of Socrates.

Ordinary people? So all those people in the North of Ireland who actually voted for either the DUP or Sinn Féin are actually extra-ordinary are they? No of course not. This scion of political discourse doesn’t explain that these out of the ordinary people actually constitute the vast majority of the northern electorate because it would destroy his argument. Worse, Collins forgets to mention that there was an effective all Ireland plebiscite on the Good Friday Agreement and that the whole of the Irish nation voted in favour of the new dispensation. Presumably these people are not “ordinary” either.

In the hot pursuit of his agenda, Collins commits such a large range of journalistic sins in his article that they are too numerous to mention here but there is one sin of omission that is astounding in its absence and has to be highlighted.

In common with the Fine Gael analysis that the Ulster Unionist party is the only “respectable” party in northern politics, Collins posits this party as representing the centre ground along with the moderately nationalist SDLP. Again, Collins wont let the facts, or indeed the requirement that is upon him to provide the wider picture, to get in the way of a political rant. So he does not acknowledge that this same Ulster Unionist monolith (or Official Unionist as it previously was) ran “Northern Ireland” as a one party sate for over 50 years.

Nor does Collins tell his “ordinary” readers that this same “moderate” party is synonymous with the Orange Order and the even more influential and elitist Black Perceptory and that, quite apart from the inherently anti Catholic nature of the these groups, both organisations have close links to Scottish Masonic lodges. There is an excellent article on Wikipedia about the Black Perceptory, which in its enthusiasm for all things Masonic actually reveals issues that Collins prefers to ignore regarding the true nature of Ulster Unionism.

Here is the final nail in the coffin of this parody of political analysis. Perhaps because he hasn’t read the newspapers lately, or perhaps because his telly was on the blink, poor Stephen omits to mention the latest political stunt pulled by the party of sophisticated bigots he pronounces as the voice of reason in the North. For which party arranged the talks which were to create a new “unified” political structure for Unionists in the north?

This new political structure will be a united Unionist front that would oppose the very real danger that a Catholic and, worse again, a member of Sinn Féin would actually become first minister in the state which the Ulster Unionists set up as a Protestant state for a Protestant people.

Good Lord! The party seeking unity of purpose with the “extreme” DUP is none other than Stephen Collin’s great white hope – the “moderate” Ulster Unionists.
And who chaired and provided the venue for these unity talks which were held in Belfast in December 2009? Why, none other than that bastion of bigotry the Orange Order which ‘wouldn’t have a Catholic about the house’.

Does Mr Collins mention any of this? Of course not.

The ‘paper of record’ – how are ye?

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Title: Stephen Collins and a parody of political analysis
Date posted: 01 Feb '10 - 08:33
Filed under: General
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