Thursday, 30 November 2017

Are the media soft on Sinn Fein?

Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald and Eilish McCallion.
Over the course of the past two weekends the two largest parties in Northern Ireland held their party conferences.  The first was the Sinn Fein ard fheis in Dublin and the second was the DUP conference, which was held near Belfast..

At the Sinn Fein ard fheis Eilish McCallion, the Sinn Fein MP for Foyle, praised Martin McGuinness for joining the IRA and described him as 'a proud member of the IRA' and her words got 'thunderous applause'.  

You might imagine that this 'thunderous applause' for the IRA, in response to a speech by a Westminster MP, would cause a storm of media comment and criticism. 

Surely Stephen Nolan would devote an entire programme to Elisha McCallion and her outrageous
Eilish McCallion MP
outburst?  Surely he would demand that Elisha McCallion come on to the programme to be interrogated and put under the spotlight?  Surely the BBC as our main public service broadcaster, would ensure that Eilish McCallion was properly scrutinised on Talkback?  

A good old row about 'rapturous applause for the IRA' is just the sort of thing the BBC would love to boost its audience figures, is it not?

But no, on Monday 20, the first weekday after the ard fheis both the Nolan Show and Talkback put the focus on the legacy of Gerry Adams and what next for Sinn Fein.

In fairness to Stephen Nolan he did mention the McCallion issue but it was dealt with in a few sentences and the programme moved on.  There was no interrogation of Eilish McCallion or indeed anyone else from Sinn Fein.

Later in the day I was on Talkback with  Brian Feeney and there again the focus was on Adams.  Yes Gerry Kelly was interviewed over the telephone by William Crawley at the start of the programme but he wasn't even asked about the McCallion issue oi the 'thunderous applause' for the IRA.

The fact that a member of the Westminster parliament got 'rapturous applause;' when she referred to the IRA passed almost unnoticed.

If an MP from any other party made a similarly outrageous statement they would be interrogated on programme after programme and if they refused to appear they would be doorstepped.  Yet there seems to have been no attempt to get Eilish McCallion on to these programmes so that Stephen Nolan and William Crawley could question her directly.

Am I alone in thinking that much of the media in Northern Ireland is soft on Sinn Fein?  I can think of other instances where a single statement at a party conference has been brought up again and again, long after the statement was made, but it seems that there is a different approach with Sinn Fein.

Of course someone could argue that this is the sort of thing we expect from Sinn Fein, but that argument doesn't stand up to scrutiny.  (1) This was a new MP, the up and coming generation of Sinn Fein and yet she was one of the most abrasive speakers of the day; not a good sign for the future.  (2) There is an obligation on the BBC to be fair and there should be no differential or preferential treatment for Sinn Fein.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

That Alliance Party post and the incredible stats.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw (centre) backs an Irish Language Act
Last night I wrote a post about the Alliance Party and its support for an Irish Language Act, contrasting this with its earlier position when it rejected the demand for an Irish Language Act.

There is a stats facility with blogspot and then enables the owner of the blog to see how many people have viewed each of the posts.

In the hours after the Alliance Party post went up it was viewed by a large number of people and then gradually that number tailed off, which is the normal pattern.

But after a while I detected something peculiar with the stats, not for the post about the Alliance Party and an Irish Language Act but for posts stretching back as far as 2010 and covering all sorts of issues, including politics, parades, protests, culture, identity, broadcasting, arts and museums.

After comparing these stats with the average normal level of views for very old posts and noting the level of viewing as well as the number of separate pages viewed, it seems that a small group of people have spent a significant amount of time over the past 24 hours reading through the older posts on my blog.

It is the first time that this has ever happened on such a scale since I started the blog and it ended as suddenly as it started.  It may have been totally unconnected with the Alliance Party post but on the other hand there might be a connection.  Coincidence or not, who can say?  And why would a small number of people trawl through so many posts?  Three thousand additional page-views in a 12 hour period, most of them during the night, is unusual.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

When the Alliance Party damned an Irish Language Act as 'expensive' and 'divisive'!

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw(centre) backs an Irish Language Act
Today the Alliance Party supports the introduction of an Irish Language Act and among the foremost advocates is Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw.   

On 30 August she lined up with other politicians for a photo opportunity to declare her support for an Irish Language Act.  In the photograph with her were Nichola Mallon (SDLP), Steven Agnew (Green Party), Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit), Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein), Ciaran Mac Giolla Bhein (Conradh na Gaeilge) and Niall Comer (Conradh na Gaeilge).  

Also that same day she was interviewed on the Radio Ulster programme Talkback and defended her party's support for an Irish Language Act.

Ian Parsley with his wife,  Paula Bradshaw MLA
However that was not always the position of the Alliance Party. 

The following letter from Ian James Parsley, then an Alliance Party councillor in North Down, appeared in the Irish News on 16 November 2006..

He was responding to a latter from Margaret Ritchie in the Irish News (15 November 2006) and in his reply he referred to 'a damaging and expensive Irish language act'.  Ian Parsley then continued:

Ian Parsley(Alliance)
Firstly, an Irish language act would place the language's development in the hands of officials and lawyers - and take it away from those who truly think and feel for the language and have led the process so successfully so far.  One of the most dynamic cultural movements in Europe would be reduced to a rabble of bureaucracy.

Secondly,, an (Irish language) act would inevitably bring with it huge cost.  That money will be taken from other budgets....

Most people, regardless of political background, will come to view the language as nothing more than an expensive way to divide up our people, rather than the source of cultural wealth, pride and unity it could be.

Ian Parsley rejected an Irish Language Act as damaging, expensive and divisive, which would involve 'huge cost' and that was his verdict as a prominent party member.  He was the party's policy director from 2007 to 2009 and also the unsuccessful Alliance Party candidate in the 2009 European election.

But that was in 2006 and today the Alliance Party supports an Irish Language Act.  Indeed Ian Parsley himself has written in favour of Irish language legislation and his wife, Paula Bradshaw, is an enthusiastic supporter.

I find that hard to understand because if an Irish Language Act would have been divisive, expensive and damaging in 2006, it would be just as divisive, expensive and damaging today, maybe even more so.