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Why did the media focus on the Greens?
arts and media |
Monday February 22, 2010 13:54 by Joe Galvin - Politico.ie josephtgalvin at gmail dot com 087 6449366
A strange desire to shift the focus from Fianna Fáil
The resignation of Willie O'Dea has again led to criticism of the Green Party, despite it being another failure on the side of Fianna Fáil (FF).
The Green Party has come in for major criticism over the past week for its response to Williegate, putting further pressure on a party still reeling from the resignation of Senator Deirdre de Búrca. There is no doubt that much of this criticism is justified.
The Greens response was disjointed and unprofessional. They lacked focus and initiative and their response, when it did come, was too little, too late. All of this is undoubtedly true. Why, however, has that been the main focus of many media commentators?
Noel Whelan, for example, placed equal culpability for the fiasco on the Greens in his Irish Times column, stating the coalition "cannot survive if internal Green Party tensions...are vented on op-ed pages or all over Twitter". In the Independent, Daniel McConnell stated somewhat bizarrely that John Gormley must be feeling "a bit sleazy...it hasn't been the best few days for the Greens, even if they did get their pound of flesh."
In the Sunday Independent, Colum Kenny followed a similar line, saying it was "too late for the Greens to salvage any political capital from their subsequent knifing of O'Dea in the back". This trend was followed by many media commentators, including the state broadcaster RTÉ, with Stephen Collins in the Irish Times perhaps being the most notable exception.
The fact remains, however, that this failure belonged to FF. O'Dea's nasty, childish smear is the latest in a long line of ethical failures from within FF and typifies that party's arrogance and lack of intergrity. However, little focus was placed upon the Fianna Fáil party as a whole across the media. Why?
Perhaps it is because, following O'Donoghuegate, Bertiegate, the Flynngates and Haugheygate, O'Dea was just a gate too far. Perhaps there was a feeling of ambivalence, that this issue just didn't measure up to previous Fianna Fáil scandals. A general feeling of "Why bother?"
There may be elements of truth in the above. A more likely explanation, however, is that FF managed to spin their way out of culpability. When John Gormley fails, it becomes a failure of the Green party and their lack of political experience shows when they allow this to happen. When FF fail, individuals take the heat. It happened with John O'Donoghue, with Bertie, with the Flynns and, now, it has happened with poor old Willie.
Some carefully chosen media soundbites from FF helped put the focus on the Green party, and that subtle agenda was bought into by many of the media outlets across the country. Cowen and O'Dea both spoke to the press, magnanimously absolving the Greens for their part in O'Dea's resignation. As well they might, as the Greens, despite acting late, were merely taking the correct and prudent approach in calling for O'Dea's head.
However, FF benevolence in denying they blamed the Greens served but one purpose; to shift the focus away from the party and O'Dea and on to the Greens. It was a wonderfully slick piece of political spin, and once again, FF emerged from the fiasco with their reputation less damaged than their coalition partners.
Were the Greens less than competent in their response to the situtation? Absolutely, and their slow, disjointed response will undoubtedly cost them. However, what is worse? O'Dea's wilful smear against Cllr. Maurice Quinlivan or the Greens slow response to the situation?
The focus must be placed upon FF once more. This is another failure of ethics from our largest party that cannot be forgotten. Our national media, however, seems to have done just that.