May 21, 2002
With typical anti-nationalist hysteria, the Sunday Independent warned yesterday (Sunday) that “Irish democracy is in peril” because Sinn Féin has secured five seats south of the Border.
While that type of shrill headline wins no marks for accuracy, it is at least consistent. For since the start of the election campaign in the Republic, a number of newspapers which earned their spurs opposing the peace process have been issuing daily bulletins to readers about the ‘dangers’ of voting for any party which didn’t adopt the dreadful Fine Gael line on the North.
Like the pollsters, however, the self-appointed moral guardians in the press called this election all wrong.
The Indo told readers in April that Sinn Féin “may do no more than hold their solitary seat in Cavan-Monaghan.”
The Irish Times chipped in with “Sinn Féin Crowe to miss out” while The Observer was equally spectacularly ill-informed. “Sinn Féin will fail to make a national breakthrough in the forthcoming Irish general election,” the paper predicted. Unafraid of repetition, The Observer returned to the theme later to assure readers that “with an Irish general election just weeks away, Sinn Féin’s hope of winning a handful of seats to make a breakthrough appear doomed.”
The Times of London, Belfast Telegraph, Irish Examiner and the tabloids splashed stories about IRA bombmakers in Jenin, vigilantism, Colombian drug money bankrolling Sinn Féin advice centres and Russian superguns being shipped to Belfast, in a bid to sink the electoral boat of skipper Ferris and co.
Few though could claim to have trumped the dangerous and wildly inaccurate Mirror headline on the eve of the election linking the IRA to the murder of two Lithuanian sailors.
The Irish Independent is right: our democratic process is in peril. But the threat doesn’t come from a bunch of fresh-faced TDs, it comes from a press which puts its outdated and anti-nationalist political objectives before the truth.
Is it too much to hope that with the independents, Greens and Sinn Féin now boasting a half a million votes between them, we might at last see a national newspaper which doesn’t use the nationalists of the North as a convenient punchbag?
This article appeared first on the Irelandclick.com web site on May 20, 2002.