I know we’re all donning the green jersey, ready to fight a second war, if necessary, against the hated Brits, and lining up to denounce the fluffy-haired charlatan they have chosen as their Prime Minister, but, come on, was anyone really offended by the phrase “dead in a ditch”?
Apparently we were, according to the Irish Independent’s Kevin Doyle:
Kevin from Irish Independent to BJ: When you talk about people being dead in ditches I don't think you understand what's been happening here.
— Adam Boulton (@adamboultonSKY) September 9, 2019
I thought the purpose of journalism was to ask questions that the public do not know the answer to, and then provide that information to the public. Apparently, I was wrong, and the purpose of journalism is to try and make yourself the star of the show.
Anyway, to the point of the question.
Doyle, obviously, was suggesting that when Johnson said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than seek a Brexit extension, he was in some way being insensitive to the thousands of people left dead in ditches, or elsewhere, during the many long years of violence in Northern Ireland.
The angle is that by being intransigent on the Irish Government’s demand for a backstop, the UK Prime Minister is risking others being dead in a ditch, and not himself.
Does anyone really think though – I mean, honestly – that the UK Prime Minister’s words were offensive? Does anyone think he was trying to incite violence by using that phrase?
What was the purpose of this question? Did it seek to extract new information from Johnson? Do we feel more informed because it was asked?
The truth, of course, is that the true purpose of the question was to try and provide some kind of embarrassing soundbite that could be used, back in the UK, by Johnson’s domestic opponents. Doyle wasn’t trying to be a journalist here; he was trying to be a politician.
Now, most people in Ireland won’t care a damn, because after all, it’s the hated Boris Johnson, and sure doesn’t he deserve to be brought down a peg or two? But this is also how the Irish media operates nearly all the time, here at home.
What was telling this morning was that the Irish media, which exists to hold Irish politicians to account, was far more interested in asking hard questions of the visiting leader than it was of asking tough questions of Varadkar.
This fits a pattern. Last week’s visit of Mike Pence gave Irish journalists a chance to do what they like to do more than anything else in the world: showcase their ability to “speak truth to power”. Miriam Lord was happy to declare that Pence “shat on the carpet” on Dublin, and this was followed by many pats on the back from her colleagues when her piece was shared by domestic opponents of Pence in the United States.
The problem is that for all their tough words for foreign leaders, they have virtually no interest in speaking truth to power in their own back yard. Journalist after Journalist has left the Irish media to take up a job in this Irish Government. Varadkar presides over the worst health service in modern memory, a housing crisis where people are literally dying in the streets, and a situation where thousands of children with disabilities cannot access basic services.
The Irish media relentlessly suggests that the UK Government may be risking lives with its Brexit policy. But here at home, would any of them for a moment suggest, after the death of a homeless person last week, that the Irish Government has blood on its hands?
Not a chance. Might hurt their chances at being hired for a special advisor job.
When it comes to their own back yard, they’re not interested in “speaking truth to power” at all. They’re a bunch of preening lapdogs.