Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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Alliance Party MP and RTE's John Bowman expose Eoghan Harris distortion of Belfast flag vote and his role in Mary McAleese election
rights, freedoms and repression |
Sunday January 20, 2013 22:49 by Tom Cooper
Two strikes against Eoghan Harris in this week’s Sunday Independent
Harris announced on 13 January that he, like the Sunday Independent paper edited by Anne (formerly Mrs) Harris, has been ‘silent’ on loyalist flag riots in the North of Ireland. The riots started out as an attack on the moderate unionist Alliance Party. Alliance brokered a compromise on Belfast City Council that permitted flying the Union Jack flag on 18 ‘designated’ days per year. The SDLP and Sinn Fein plan had been for either a shared no-flag space in the council or for parity of esteem by flying the Irish Tricolour with the Union Jack. Unionists don't do compromise.
The DUP and UUP, egged on by the unionist Newsletter, put out 40,000 leaflets attacking Alliance MP Naomi Long and her party generally. Long took DUP leader Peter Robinson’s seat at the last British general election. A sore point.
Sunday Independent 20 January 2013 - Eoghan Harris exposed - plus censored letter - click to read
After the first riot on the night of the vote, Alliance Party offices and the homes of representatives were systematically attacked. See:
The riot on the night of the vote is captured here:
How did the long ‘silent’ Eoghan Harris react eventually to these attacks on democracy and on democratic representatives? He grossly misreported and distorted Naomi Long's views on January 13. Her solicitors contacted the paper, leading to this abject apology on page 3, January 20:
Naomi Long: Apology
Last week in his column Eoghan Harris attributed to Naomi Long, the East Belfast Alliance MP, the words "just a meaningless bit of cloth", in relation to the Union flag and suggested on the strength of this that she had no feel for the Unionist tradition (Sunday Independent, 13 January 2013).
We accept that she did not state that the flag was "meaningless" or refer to it in derogatory or dismissive terms nor did she introduce this phrase.
In fact, what Ms Long actually said was: "I have family who fought in the Second World War. I know that they fought, not for a piece of material, but they fought for values... they fought for values and principles, they fought against fascism, they fought against violent interference with the democratic process, they fought for freedom of expression, difference of opinion. They didn't fight for a coloured piece of cloth."
That characterisation of Ms Long, based on a misreading of the discussion she was taking part in, was inaccurate and unfair, and for that we apologise and have agreed to meet her legal costs.
On the Sunday Independent web edition, the apology is buried in the ‘lifestyle/motoring’ section, followed (peculiarly) by the words, ‘Irish Independent’: http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/motoring/naomi-long....html
That is whammy number one for Ireland’s number one self-regarding right wing whiner.
Whammy number two comes care of a letter from RTE’s John Bowman:
In the midst of a continuing moan about Sean Gallagher losing the last presidential election (see, http://www.indymedia.ie/article/101574 & http://www.indymedia.ie/article/101528) Harris moaned on 13 January about how he was depicted in Bowman’s 2012 RTE history, ‘Window and Mirror’:
(References to Naomi Long in this column removed by Sunday Independent)
Harris worked in RTE until the late 1980s and spent a lot of his time time witch-hunting those opposed to broadcasting censorship. Harris was a Stalinist censor in the Workers Party then, a McCarthyite censor for the highest political or editorial bidder now. He was exposed publicly in November 1987 by the late Gerald Barry of RTE as secretly fomenting attacks on broadcasters who wanted to oppose censorship (See Barry column, Sunday Tribune 29 November 1987 – attached as a graphic).
After that Harris's credibility was shot and he was on his way out of RTE. He latched on to the 1990 Mary Robinson presidential campaign. He has whinged ever since about his claim of single handedly electing Robinson being (justifiably) ignored. Harris himself ignores the later hysterical Sunday Independent denunciations of President Robinson when she shook Gerry Adams’ hand in West Belfast in 1992. His attacks on RTE today and his right wing turn stem from his ignominious departure from the station in the late 1980s (that and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall that cut the Workers Party off from East German funding: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2013/0114/1....html.
As Bowman points out, Harris also tried to influence the subsequent successful 1997 Mary McAleese presidential election bid by running a stooge candidate against her. The stooge smelled a rat and exposed Harris during the election. It blew up in his face. You can read all about it here in Brenda Power’s excellent 1997 Magill article at:
Bowman’s letter points out that Harris as usual has the wrong end of the stick.
I have an angle in all of this because, while Bowman was given a right of reply, I was denied one about another Harris distortion of the record. Harris mentioned me in his 12 October 2012 column:
Harris had ignored me when I had a complaint upheld against an RTE One TV programme that Harris scripted and narrated last year:
RTE upholds complaint against Eoghan Harris programme on War of independence
I made my complaint to RTE after the Sunday Independent refused me an opportunity to respond to Harris’s self-promotion of the programme. See:
As I felt RTE’s admission fell short I took the complaint further to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BCI).
The BCI refused to examine the programme under objectivity, impartiality and fairness provisions in the Broadcasting Act. The BCI stated that the programme did not fit news and current affairs criteria. Harris wrote about this in the Sunday Independent as a vindication. He never reported that RTE had admitted serious errors in the programme in the first place, or that the BCI failed to judge the programme at all. I sent the following very short letter that the Sunday Independent refused to publish. It stated:
I fully agree with Eoghan Harris (October 14th) that people should read the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) determination on my complaint about a programme he made. It is available on the BAI.ie website. The complaint had already been partially upheld by RTE and I was pursuing with the BAI factual errors and bias RTE ignored. My correspondence with RTE is available on indymedia.ie.
However, I disagree with Eoghan Harris that the BAI made a full determination on remaining weaknesses in the programme, An Tost Fada ('The Long Silence', RTE One, April 16th 2012).
Extraordinarily, the BAI refused to asses the programme under Broadcasting Act rules on objectivity and impartiality. This is very peculiar since RTE itself stated that those were the criteria under which the programme should have been assessed. The BAI used instead vague internal BAI provisions about whether the programme gave 'offence'. On those self-limiting grounds the complaint against remaining weaknesses in the programme was not upheld.
That is hardly a vindication given that RTE has already agreed that the programme contained serious errors of fact that should have been checked before broadcast.
In my opinion the programme was a biased, incompetent, sectarian, view of an aspect of the War of Independence and its aftermath that claimed to be the opposite. There is nothing "nit-picking" about my view and nothing accurate about Eoghan Harris's typically irrelevant description of me as a founder of the Irish National Congress.
Maybe if like Bowman I had mixed sycophantic praise with criticism of the egocentric commentator, the Sindo might have published my letter.
It was not to be, but you can read the letter here on the internet.
The cartoon Harris complained of 13 January 2013 that exposed his disastrous 1997 Mary McAleese presidential election - click if not clear
Naomi Long MP Sunday Independent apology and letter from John Bowman - click to read
The late Gerald Barry of RTE wrote this Sunday Tribune column on 29 November 1987 that exposed Harris RTE witch-hunt - click to read
Eoghan Harris - writes stories as straight as a corkscrew
Caption: DUP and UUP loyalist rioters begin rampage - see 'No Surrender' lady
Caption: 'Belfast Bigot' No Surrender lady becomes YouTube sensation
Caption: HItler hears about the flag coming down - 'Downfall' spoof -