Varadkar condemns cynicism of media


THE IRISH media is cynically leading opposition to the Government while failing to scrutinise the claims of other groups, Minister for Transport and Tourism Leo Varadkar has claimed.

He accused a large section of the public of opting for scapegoats and “sugar-coated” truth rather than the real truth. And while he acknowledged the Government had broken a pre-election promise on Roscommon hospital, he suggested local campaigners should never have looked for the promise.

Speaking yesterday at the launch of a survey which showed trust in government is increasing, Mr Varadkar warned of the problems caused by a “new dynamic” in the media.

With the political opposition weak and divided, the media had set itself up as the real opposition, the Minister said. It was right that the media should be sceptical of Government but it should also be sceptical of the Opposition, interest groups and commentators. However, it was not.

“We’re in a bad place when the media becomes cynical about the Government to the extent that it actually competes with the Opposition to be more anti-Government, when they should be reporting on what’s going on. That’s not a good thing for democracy.”

Overall trust in government here rose by 15 percentage points to 35 per cent over last year, the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer found. Globally across 25 countries, trust in government fell by the largest amount in 12 years.

Overall levels of trust in Ireland improved marginally over the previous year, when Ireland was at the bottom of the rankings. This year, people in Germany, Spain, Japan and Russia have less trust than the Irish.

Mr Varadkar said that when he first went into politics, he believed the public wanted the truth and did not want politicians making “a bunch of promises” – “Actually, the public is divided – a lot of them don’t want the truth, they want scapegoats.” Others wanted the truth “sugar-coated”.

In the past, Irish people blamed the British or partition for the country’s problems but “now it’s the fashion to blame Europe for all our problems, as though we had no role ourselves”.Politicians often “succumb” to making promises, he said. For example, on Roscommon hospital, a “breach of promise” had occurred “but it probably shouldn’t have been asked for either”.

“There is a market for people who want the truth and there is a market for those who want it sugar-coated. Politicians need to decide which market they want to go with.”

Mr Varadkar pointed to a survey finding that the media was distrusted just as much as government.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged trust in politics had been badly damaged by corruption scandals, a “bizarre” unvouched expenses system and the economic crisis. It was no surprise that people distrusted their politicians but the Government was trying to rebuild trust through political reform.

Real political reform was taking place but going unnoticed, he claimed.

According to the survey, seven out of 10 Irish people do not trust government leaders to tell them the truth, while only 12 per cent believe the Government is managing the country effectively.

Trust in business in Ireland fell by 3 points to 43 per cent, in line with global trends. Domestic banks remain the most distrusted institution, though trust increased from 6 per cent to 9 per cent.