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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

This myth of a balanced media and the strange attacks on TG4

That paragon of socialist discourse - Ruairí Quinn

I can understand a newspaper proprietor like Alan Crosbie (Irish Examiner/Sunday Business Post) railing against the phenomenon of new internet based media and the blogosphere - see Irish Times report -
We do after all represent a direct threat to his power and influence, not to speak of the spare change in his pocket. However for the allegedly socialist Ruairí Quinn (our minister for education) to join in this crusade beggars belief. The words ”Lemming and Luddite” seem increasingly to sum up the Labour Party in government.

Did Quinn’s PR advisers actually read his speech to journalism students in Limerick before allowing him to label we bloggers and online news providers as "unaccountable ...anonymous backstabbers”? Sounds more like a Labour Party candidate selection convention to me.

Quinn essentially argued that the traditional capitalist media outlets like RTÉ and the Irish Times are balanced and dependable and should be defended from the ravages of we plebeians.

A media Jihad?

As many of my (thousands) of regular readers are aware, this blog was started precisely because my writings and comments were effectively censored in the mainstream media. In fact, in this mythical land of balance, Easons the book and newspaper distributor would not even carry or distribute my book - A Very British Jihad - as it eagerly stocked copies of generally soft focus books on loyalist killers like Michael Stone and Billy Wright.

My Jihad book is now out of print because people across the world blogged about it and spread the word. Go figure.

The biggest story on the island in recent decades was collusion between the British state and loyalist killers. Yet this story was ignored by our balanced media and this situation still pertains.
In other words, it was "balance” that got us into this censorial mess in the first place. The basic devil's advocate (on the one hand but then on the other) approach and its pale caricature in a pro colonial RTÉ, failed to tell the collusion story and basically upheld unionist privilege. Why? Because there is no such thing as balance in a society where big business, or in the North up until recently - Orange and Masonic Lodges, holds all the trump cards.

That apotheosis of balanced reporting - the Irish Times (Fintan O’Toole included) - sided with those same northern masons right throughout the Troubles. Over a period of ten years, the “paper of record” declined to publish a single letter or article of mine regarding the Northern situation, bar one. In fact, when its Saturday columnist Eddie Holt wrote a broadly favourable review of my book he was sacked not long afterwards. Commenting on our "balanced” established media – the one so cherished by Ruairí Quinn - Eddie Holt said the following not long after the Irish Times got rid of him:

“The Republic of Ireland is among the most unequal societies in the wealthy world: the wealthiest 20% of the working population make 12 times as much as the poorest 20%. What multiple is unacceptable to the media? “
See – “The Dubliner” -

In essence, the very constituency that is calling for restrictions on the blogosphere and a return to deference for the established media is the very constituency that presided over the indulgence of some of the worst excesses of capitalism, press censorship (Section 31), pro British collusion and the continued partition of the country.

With all the above in mind, I find it astonishing that certain people within the Irish language fraternity have called for more balance in the media, or more accurately within the Irish language television station TG4. These calls arose following the present screening of a series looking at the stories of female members of the IRA (or militant female socialist republicans). It is also ironic that they are using that section of the English language media in Ireland that is most hostile to the Irish language to attack TG4.

Those Irish speakers who demand that stories about women in the IRA contain some kind of health warning and a balancing voice seem to forget that we have had a non stop diet of anti Republican propaganda for decades. More pointedly, they are also forgetting, as it were, where they came from. Irish language media sources came about precisely because the mainstream "balanced" media simply ignored the language (and rights) of thousands upon thousands of Irish speakers.


The Belfast based “Lá” newspaper for example, gave often brilliant coverage of Irish republican issues that would never have been touched by the "balanced” media and never once was there a health warning when referring to the IRA or its volunteers. It is interesting to note that the term volunteer (“óglach” in Irish – warrior or soldier) has now attained common usage in the media because of the influence of alternative media sources. This term was regularly used by Lá throughout the Troubles and was accepted as being natural by all Irish language speakers. To now argue against the use of these terms is simply hypocrisy. Moreover, the use of the term "soldier"; for example, the term "boy soldier" when covering wars in Africa, does not imply support for that "soldier's" war - a completely daft argument.

To conclude, balance did not secure our rights to a broader and a more representative discourse (in English or Irish). It was democratic pressure from below that did this and the internet has facilitated that need. Nor is it a question of rebalancing to make amends for this historical lack of balance. It is simply a question of telling stories that have, scandalously, never been told.

Let a thousand flowers bloom

@Paul Larkin
Baile Átha Cliath
Mí Feabhra 2012

A personal postscript -

This week is the anniversary of the death of my grandmother Sarah Larkin nee Laverty (Trócaire Dé ar a hanam dílis). Nana Larkin's family was from Belfast. Her story and indeed that of the Manchester Irish has never been told – “balance” how are you?


Sarah Larkin (RIP)- 3rd Right with family - a devout Catholic and working class hero


Fuair mé seo ar maidin ó Marcus

Alt suimiúl. Go raibh maith agat.

Níor cheart, dar liom, go mbeadh 'cothromaíocht' á lorg ag déantóirí clár.
B'fhearr go mór fada go nochtfaí tuairim láidir an déantóra/ nó an an té atá mar ábhar an chláir. Thabharfadh sin deis duit aontú nó gan aontú leis ach ar a laghad bheadh an clár tar éis lón machnaimh a thabhairt duit.
Nóta beag mar gheall ar úsáid an fhocail sin 'óglach'. Tugadh 'Óglaigh na hÉireann' ar 'The Irish Volunteers'(1913) agus le himeacht aimsire is le bunú an chéad Dáil déanadh The Irish Republican Army de. Is é ainm oifigiúl Gaeilge 'The Irish Defence Forces' (Arm na hÉireann) ná Óglaigh na hÉireann. Ar ghrá na tuisceana agus ar mhaith le mí-thuiscint a sheachaint ba cheart idir-dhealú a dhéanamh idir an an dá dhream .i. Arm na hÉireann agus an IRA.
Samhlaigh tuairisc nuachta ag déanamh cur síos mar seo "...d'ionsaigh buíon d'Óglaigh na hÉireann buíon d'óglaigh na hÉireann aréir....". Cad a shíleann tú féin?

by: Pol (contact) - 09 Feb '12 - 12:03
Aontaím leat faoi shaoithíneacht Uí Liatháin maidir le 'Óglaigh na hÉireann' agus gur úsáid sé an Indo chun an clár (agus TG4) a cháineadh ach caithfear aithint ag an am chéanna go raibh Ó Liatháin ina eagarthóir ar Lá tráth agus go bhfuil sé ar Bhord TG4 - ní namhaid an stáisiúin é. Ba chóir díriú isteach ar argóint s'aige faoin chlár amháin sin seachas ar TG4 ná ar na meáin go ginearálta. Má mhothaíonn sé go raibh Mna an IRA éagothrom, tá an ceart sin aige. Sin ráite, aontaím leis maidir leis an easpa clár chúrsaí reatha ar TG4.

I agree with you about Ó Liathain's nitpicking over 'Óglaigh na hÉireann' and that he used the Indo to criticise the programme (and TG4) but at the same time it has to be recognised that Ó Liatháin was once the editor of Lá and he is also on the Board of TG4 - he is not an enemy of the station. The focus should be on his arguments about that one series instead of on TG4 or the media in general. If he feels Mná an IRA was unbalanced, he has that right. That said, I do agree with him about the lack of current affairs programmes on TG4.
by: Séamus (contact) - 09 Feb '12 - 13:42
A Shéamuis a chara (agus Marcus thuas) - ní raibh mé ag iarraidh an scéal a "phearsantú" sa dóigh sin, ach an pointe a ardú go raibh téarmaí macasamhail "óglach" agus "IRA" in úsáid le linn na trioblóidí agus ní raibh fadhb ag Gael ar bith leo. Fiú dóibh siúd a bhí dlúth in éadan an IRA, thug siad "arm" ar an eagraíocht féin.

go raibh maith agat/agaibh as an teachtaireacht/na teachtaireachtaí a chairde


(I didn't want to personalise the issue, I was just making the point that terms like volunteer or óglach and IRA (Irish Republican Army) were used throughout the Troubles and not one Gael raised an objection to them.Even those who hated the IRA still called it an "army")
by: Pol (contact) - 09 Feb '12 - 14:24


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Title: This myth of a balanced media and the strange attacks on TG4
Date posted: 08 Feb '12 - 11:26
Filed under: General
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