Ireland correspondents: 'In ways, Syria is easier'
Four Irish-based foreign correspondents describe how Ireland is viewed abroad: we’re placid, friendly, in control of our economy and have a ‘weird’ political system
'IRELAND GAVE A GOOD LESSON TO THE POLITICIANS IN YOUR COUNTRY'
Paulo Nunes dos Santosis a freelance writer and photojournalist who works for both the Portuguese and American press (most notably the Expresso newspaper in Lisbon and the New York Times). He works in conflict zones but also reports on and lives in Ireland, where he is married with a child.
“I came here in 2002 on holiday and stayed. There is a great interest in Portugal in what is going on in Ireland’s economy. They feel it predicts what’s going to happen to them.
“When the IMF got its hands on the Irish economy, people in Portugal knew that we would be next. Things happen in Ireland before they happen in Portugal. A lot of the interest involved comparing the Irish situation to the Portuguese situation. I write mainly on the human side of the crisis.
“The idea they have of Ireland is of a country that developed so much and then had this massive collapse. In covering it, the Portuguese press tried to understand how it could fall from grace like that, and maybe learn lessons from it. Unfortunately, Portugal was next and there was no real chance of avoiding the situation.
“But Ireland gave a good lesson to the politicians in your country. Fianna Fáil was in power for a long time, they screwed up, and at the first opportunity you kicked them out. I wrote at the time that the Irish were punishing the government. That doesn’t happen in Portugal. In Portugal, they have a very short memory.
“There’s also been an interest in the Catholic scandals because we’ve had similar issues . . . I think there was a lot of interest because Portugal is quite similar to Ireland in terms of society being attached to the Catholic Church, but in Portugal we started to break from it a bit earlier.
“I also take photos for the New York Times. I’m doing a piece on the Traveller community because two guys from the Traveller community were arrested in the US in connection with international rhino-horn smuggling.
I’m considering doing a story about punishment shootings around the Border. I find doing stories like that in Ireland difficult for some reason. It’s not an easy place to work as a photojournalist. Irish people are very conscious of cameras and newspapers . . . People are very wary. When I go to Syria or Libya or Sudan, I cross borders illegally with rebel groups. I’ve had knives to the throat and been in vehicles that were being shot at, but in many ways I find it easier than doing photojournalism in Ireland.
“As a non-Irish photographer, one of the boxes you tick straight away are the cliches. If I produce a story about daily life in Dublin, I’d go into Mulligan’s or Moore Street or the horse market in Smithfield . . . maybe some Georgian doors. Now I wouldn’t restrict myself to that, I’d do art galleries and restaurants, too, but I do some of the cliches as well. If I didn’t, an editor would ask: ‘Where are the guys with the horses?’
'I CONSIDER THE IRISH TO BE THE SICILIANS OF THE NORTH OF EUROPE'
Enzo Farinellais a correspondent for Vatican Radio and the Italian news agency ANSA. He is also an author and lecturer. He has lived in Ireland for more than 40 years and has written several books about Ireland.
“When I first came here, most of the coverage was about Northern Ireland. I was here for the 30 years of the Troubles, following it and writing about it. I interviewed most of the protagonists: John Hume, Gerry Adams, David Trimble, some people in the IRA.
“In 1978, I started working for ANSA, an Italian news agency. Pope John Paul II came in 1979 and I started working for Vatican Radio. I had the privilege of broadcasting live all the functions of the pope in Ireland. I was the most-wanted journalist in Ireland because when the pope arrived, the director of Vatican radio gave me all the speeches he’d be delivering. I passed the information to no one [he laughs].
“Before I came here, the Irish news that arrived in Rome was mostly from London. And the story that London would present, especially during the Troubles, would have been very different to the story presented from Ireland. When I was writing about the North for a Rome newspaper, the correspondent from London complained because what I was saying wasn’t what London was saying. I was writing the view from Ireland. I remember with Bobby Sands’s death I wrote a full page of the newspaper and on the other page was the view from London, which was the complete opposite view.