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  • RTE: A Station in the Front Line

    March 12, 2012 @ 11:02 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    RTE is going through its most difficult period in editorial terms since the start of the Troubles. Remember the sacking of the Authority and the jail sentence imposed on Kevin O’Kelly?

    At least on this occasion, there is no talk of anybody being put behind bars – well not yet! Personally, I don’t believe in lecturing journalists in other media organisations – or indeed my own – about standards.

    But there has been a problem with The Frontline since its inception. One was never comfortable with the audience - a fairly typical example was the recent programe with Minister of State Ciaran Cannon which was the subject of the following blogpost.

    I wrote at the time that such was the array of opinion against Cannon that one was reminded of a crowd ganging-up on a youngster in a schoolyard. I hardly know the man and would not necessarily agree with him on any subject whatsoever, but he kept his cool remarkably well.

    I also wrote that it was a disturbing sight. Others I meet in and around Leinster House have expressed the view that The Frontline was entering a new zone for Irish television – more akin to the Jerry Springer Show than traditional current affairs television.

    Frankly, I have never watched more than a few minutes of  Jerry Springer so I am not qualified to comment on the comparison. But the RTE production did seem to be taking a strongly-populist approach where the Government panellists were likely to become very isolated targets.

    Good, hard, robust criticism is an essential feature of democracy and when politicians go for election they can’t expect to be treated with kid-gloves. But there also needs to be balance and fairness.

    It is at least arguable that Sean Gallagher would be President of Ireland today, were it not for The Frontline. I have it on good authority from inside the Michael D. Higgins campaign that all seemed lost the weekend before the election.

    But one Tweet changed everything. Or rather the way the Tweet was received and broadcast, without being verified, and the failure to report the Sinn Fein disavowal of same brought Gallagher down.

    Some folk say  it was good for the country that Gallagher was undone, by fair means or foul, that there were too many question-marks over him, etc. The problem with this view is that it is a denial of democracy.

    Had Gallagher made it to the Park and then turned out to be entirely unsuitable – well, there are ways of dealing with that in the Constitution.

    RTE is a major national asset but it has its flaws. There is a coarseness in some of the comedy output that it is at times a cause of dismay. A different version of the same mentality was in evidence in the way Sean Gallagher was treated.

    Let’s hope this worthy broadcasting institution can come through this crisis, weather the storm and that normal service can be resumed, with lessons learnt and taken to heart.  

    Interestingly, this is not the first time a politician was brought down by a Tweet, except that in the case of Willie O’Dea, the message sent out by Dan Boyle was genuine. Twitter rules the political landscape, it would seem.

  • The Gender Challenge

    March 8, 2012 @ 10:07 am | by Mary Minihan

    UPDATE 16.38: Our man in Limerick, David Raleigh, reports that around 150 “proud sluts” marched through Limerick City today in their quest to reclaim the derogatory word ‘slut’ and make it a term of empowerment for women. Personally I’d be with my colleague Anthea McTeirnan when it comes to the “slut walk” phenomenon, but each to their own I suppose http://bit.ly/zmDKTh 

    UPDATE 16.25:

     Andrew MacDonald

    @AndrewMac81 reacts to Joan Burton: “rubbish! you cannot operate democracy on satisfying quotas. She should closely examine her philosophies!”

    UPDATE 15.40:  @kimleonard4 expressed scepticsim about gender quotas at Cabinet via twitter

    @minihanmary whilst I support more women in politics,gender quota at cabinet?should it not be based on who is the most qualified4 the job?


    UPDATE 15.35: Plently of speculation about Joan Burton’s leadership ambitions on twitter…

    Ciarán Mc Mahon 

    CJAMcMahon @jonnyfallon @minihanmary yeah, that’s what it was about – gender balance. And that’s what her knife-sharpening is about too, gender balance

    UPDATE 14.45: Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton made some very interesting remarks at the Women’s Day lunch. She said some people may have suspected she was disappointed with the role she was awarded when the Cabinet Ministries were distributed, “but my real disappointment was that it wasn’t a Cabinet of 50/50″ men and women.

    “We are breaking a lot of glass ceilings but there’s no doubht that in politics we don’t have a critical mass of women which would lead to an, if you like, rainbow Cabinet in Ireland”. She said women and men in roughly equal numbers at Cabinet would allow Ministers to bring a variety of experience to the table.

    RTE presenter Miriam O’Callaghan introduced the Minister, pointing out she would be interviewing her on television tonight. Ms O’Callaghan joked that she was being “nice me” now but would turn into “mean me” later.

    UPDATE 14.40: The L’Oreal International Women’s Day lunch organised by An Cosan took place in the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin this afternoon. Below are the guest lists…

    Women's lunch guestlist

    Women's lunch guestlist 2


    UPDATE 14.10:Journalist Olivia O’Leary has told the Women for Europe event in the Mansion House, Dublin, that the number of women elected to the Dail in Ireland was “disgraceful” and called for a gender quota at Cabinet. She said since the State came into being 4,700 men had been elected to parliament while just 260 women were successful.She criticised the Labour Party for not appointing Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to an economic ministry, pointing out that when the late Seamus Brennan of Fianna Fail was given that ministry he was widely described as having been demoted.

    Ms O’Leary welcomed the Government’s proposed legislation to introduce a 30 per cent gender quota, but said the Coalition should go further. “We need to start talking about a requirement for Government to have at least 30 per cent women politicians at Cabinet.”

    Referring to childcare, she said presenteeism bedevilled politics. Teleconferencing should be utilised, she added.

    Ms O’Leary said women in general tended to “run away” from knowedge of financial matters. That had to stop, and women also had to stop regarding power as something masculine.

    Olivia O'Leary at the Women for Election event


    Gemma Hussey

    UPDATE 11.40: Former Fine Gael minister Gemma Hussey has predicted an “Irish spring for women” on twitter @GemmaMGHussey, where she describes herself as a “Former Govt Minister (Fine Gael) Feminist; Author; Commentator; Grandmother of 7″:

    “Happy Women’s Day to all! So much is stirring….are we on the brink of an Irish Spring for women? See you all later at various locations.”

    UPDATE 11.30: Given that Leaders’ Questions was conducted through Irish yesterday we thought there might be a possibility that women TDs could have asked (and fielded!) questions today, but it was not to be. Paedar Toibin, rather than Mary Lou McDonald, stepped up for Sinn Fein. Fianna Fail (who as noted have no women TDs) put forward Dara Calleary. A big hint that he will be appointed the new deputy leader of the party following the departure of Eamon O Cuiv…


    UPDATE 11.10am:

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny poses with women TDs and Senators

    Taoiseach Enda Kenny posed for photographs with women TDs and Senators on the plinth outside Leinster House to mark International Women’s Day. Blessed was he amongst women, as my journalistic colleague Maria Shannon remarked on twitter.

    It was all vision no sound though. Mr Kenny will take questions at an event at the Custom House later.



    Good morning. A few thoughts on a recent development to begin. At the recent Fianna Fail ard fheis, a motion opposing the 30 per cent gender quota requirement for elections proposed by the Government was passed. The motion was in direct defiance of the stated position of the leadership.

    When the Government published last December the Electoral Amendment Political Funding Bill 2011, which will halve State funding to parties unless 30 per cent of their candidates at the next general election are women, Fianna Fail welcomed it but was quick to commit itself to ensuring women account for 30 per cent of its local election candidates in 2014. This was the view of environment spokesman Niall Collins, strongly supported by leader Micheal Martin.

    In its ard fheis brochure, Fianna Fail outlined what it saw as “the gender challenge”. It stated that the 2011 election had left the party without a woman TD and with just two women senators, Averil Power and Mary White.

    “We have a strong track record in the area of equality but we must do more to involve women in our party and to ensure that more women are selected as candidates in 2014 and at the next General Election. Considerable work is underway in this regard.”

    Yet the motion, “That this ard fheis oppose the 30 per cent gender requirement for elections announced by the Government”, was supported. The specific motion was proposed by a cumann in Sligo-North Leitrim, while related motions had been put forward from Laois and Limerick City.

    What is Fianna Fail policy on gender quotas now?

    After the General Election, the party’s state funding dropped from just over €5 million per annum to approximately €2.8 million. Can the party afford to take the financial hit that will accompany failing to implement a gender quota?

  • Fianna Fail: agreeing to differ?

    March 2, 2012 @ 8:45 pm | by Mary Minihan

    The portion of Micheal Martin’s speech dealing with Fianna Fail’s position on the fiscal treaty referendum was received in silence by the 600 or so delegates in the Shelbourne Hall at the RDS.   (more…)

  • Politics podcast: March 1st

    March 1, 2012 @ 1:09 pm | by Harry McGee

    In this week’s Politics podcast, Harry McGee talks left-wing politics with Richard Boyd Barrett of the United Left Alliance and Waterford Independent TD John Halligan.

    icon for podpress  Standard Podcast [17:25m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
  • Did you get a Christmas card from your local TD?

    February 23, 2012 @ 4:16 pm | by Mary Minihan

    In a change of form, TDs tended not to send to send Christmas cards to media personnel last year. One of the perks Oireachtas members enjoy is the ability to avail of an “in-house” printing service allowing them to produce individualised cards they can send to constituents and others. 


  • It Was The Way He Told Them

    @ 1:20 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    In the darkest days of the Northern troubles, there was one constant source of light relief. I refer to the wit and humour of Belfast comedian Frank Carson who has just died at the age of 85 years.


  • Sad Story of Our Time

    February 12, 2012 @ 1:44 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún

    Check out this fascinating account of a very sad story about a tragic incident at a US university and the role that new technology played in the unfolding series of events. A long read but worth the effort http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/02/06/120206fa_fact_parker?currentPage=all

  • Shatter Stirs Things Up On Neutrality

    February 5, 2012 @ 10:58 pm | by Deaglán de Bréadún
    There has been a good deal of controversy over remarks by Justice, Equality and Defence Minister Alan Shatter on Irish neutrality and Jewish refugees in the second World War and on the treatment of Irish soldiers who deserted to join the British Army at that time. Here is the advance draft text of the speech issued on the night.
  • Tussles in Brussels

    January 30, 2012 @ 11:50 am | by Harry McGee

    It’s just approaching noon in Brussels and the temperature has plummeted, with a fall of light snow.


  • Once more into the breach

    December 8, 2011 @ 9:17 pm | by Harry McGee

    This is the 16th summit since the existential crisis affecting the eurozone first erupted. (more…)

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