No campaign attacked over ‘dishonest’ and ‘scurrilous’ tactics

Barnados chief Fergus Finlay says the media ‘needs to get real about this too’

Fergus Finlay: “If I described Ronan Mullen as a Government expert because 100 per cent of his income comes from the taxpayer, apart from his political contributions, he would be outraged.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Fergus Finlay: “If I described Ronan Mullen as a Government expert because 100 per cent of his income comes from the taxpayer, apart from his political contributions, he would be outraged.” Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Tactics employed by the No side in the same sex marriage referendum campaign have been described as “cynical”, “dishonest”, and as exploiting a “politics of fear”.

Asked about the No strategy in Dublin on Thursday Fergus Finlay, chief of children’s agency Barnardos , said “what we have to do is call it for what it is. It is cynical. It is dishonest”.

Speaking at a Yes Equality press conference he said: “I think we’re going to have to start naming some of these tactics for what they are. It is the politics of fear. It is about trying to manipulate people’s anxieties and worries in ways that are simply not substantiated by the fact. And I have to say they’ve been a pretty easy ride for some of that in a lot of the media.”

He “listened to [special rapporteur on child protection] Geoffrey Shannon on television on Monday night... the moment he was finished making a very authoritative and independent statement, in which he made clear he wasn’t advocating a vote one way or the other, the moment he was finished, he was dismissed as an untrustworthy Government expert.

“If I described Ronan Mullen as a Government expert because 100 per cent of his income comes from the taxpayer, apart from his political contributions, he would be outraged. But that doesn’t stop them.”

Some of what he had been reading about funding, including the funding of his own organisation, in recent days, was “scurrilous, absolutely scurrilous.” It “should be challenged. It needs to be challenged day in and day out. If people want to tell distorted versions of the truth about this it has to be challenged. There’s far too much of it going on.”

He continued that “if I wanted to wage a campaign about Ronan Mullen’s public funding or David Quinn’s secret funding they would be disgusted at me. We haven’t done that. We have tried to debate this in terms of values and honesty and issues.

“They, on the other hand, have used information which is completely in the public domain. Every bit of research that Breda O’Brien did for the article she wrote in last Saturday’s Irish Times was taken from the Glen website and Atlantic Philanthropies website, nothing secret about any of it and still she was able to write a piece that cast a cloud over secret funding. The media needs to get real about this too. They need to be challenged.”