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Henry McDonald, The Godfather and the Real IRA

category international | arts and media | opinion/analysis author Wednesday September 15, 2010 08:41author by Paul Larkin - Paul Larkinauthor email offworld_98 at yahoo dot comauthor address 100 Cuarbhothar Thuaidh Report this post to the editors

The Guardian Ireland correspondents "exclusive".

Paul Larkin sent the following complaint to the Guardian's editorial standards editor today in reference to Henry McDonald's "exclusive" interview with the Real IRA. The article can be read here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/14/real-ira-targe...nkers

Complaint regarding Guardian article - "Real IRA says it will target UK bankers" - Tuesday 14 September 2010 21.03 BST

Your Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald describes his interview with the Real IRA as an "exclusive", yet it is common knowledge amongst journalists in Ireland that this tiny dissident group is desperate to talk to anyone who will listen to them. Exactly when did the Guardian decided to adopt this tabloid approach to journalism, where everything is described as an exclusive, even when it patently is not? The description of the interview being similar to a scene from the Godfather is laughable and, in my personal view, a lowering of Guardian standards.

Furthermore, and as on previous occasions, Henry McDonald chooses to quote anti peace process dissidents in an attack on a leading Sinn Féin member (Martin McGuinness) labelling him as a "British Crown minister" who is administering the Queen of England's writ in Ireland. Leaving aside the Real IRA's natural inclination to abuse Martin McGuiness as a "Brit", this statement is technically incorrect. The Good Friday Agreement has set up new institutions in Northern Ireland, which make a clear distinction between Britain and Northern Ireland. In short (and much to the annoyance of many unionists) the GFA has rubber stamped the nationalist argument that Northern Ireland is not British.

In normal professional journalist fashion, your correspondent should have sought a quote from McGuinness and/or Sinn Féin to counterbalance what is in effect a free hit for the Real IRA, an organisation that has almost zero support in Ireland.

Is the editorial staff at the Guardian actually aware that Henry McDonald is a long standing and vociferous opponent of Sinn Féin (please refer to his multitude of books and articles on this and related subjects)? This is common knowledge in Ireland even if it is not widely known on what McDonald now chooses to call the "mainland".

Given McDonald's openly declared political stance where he has described his crusade against Sinn Féin as an ideological "battle", is it not incumbent upon the Guardian to ensure that, at the very least, normal journalistic checks and balances are applied to his copy in order to avoid the whiff of propaganda? Without this kind of balancing, the net effect of this kind of article in the Guardian (whether McDonald intends this or not) is to act as a cheerleader for the Real IRA.

author by Paul Larkinpublication date Thu Sep 16, 2010 08:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just to be clear. The letter of complaint I sent to the Guardian was all to do with the fact that he ridiculously claims an "exclusive" for getting the Real IRA to talk to him and the complete lack of balance (not for the first time) in his coverage of the dissidents. It was nothing to do with wishing to censor the dissident voice, something I would be completely against.

McDonald has moved the focus of the debate in an attempt to obfuscate the question of his poor journalistic standards.

author by J McIvorpublication date Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Exclusive : a news item initially released to only one publication or broadcaster." ..................various
online dictionaries

This was the first time the Real IRA had spoken directly to a national UK newspaper – it wasn’t “sources close to the Real IRA” being interviewed .The toilet bowl routine the Guardian was put through to get the story surely gives the newspaper the right to call Henry MacDonald’s article an exclusive, irrespectively of whether other media outlets want to record the views of RIRA or not. The insights the report provides into the anti-capitalist political thinking of RIRA - particularly the group’s belief that disaffection brought about by the current economic collapse will afford them a “fertile recruiting ground”- are surely of interest .

author by Redundant Republicanpublication date Fri Sep 17, 2010 22:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Real IRA to target bankers, I nearly died laughing. Lets get REAL, the main enemy that exists for republicans are the sinn fein members implementing and supporting british rule in Ireland. So lads stop pissing around with all this nonsense, this is a non war and it serves only to strenghten the shinners and the brits. The war is over and lost, dont get sucked in.

author by JCpublication date Sat Sep 18, 2010 00:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Because if anyone has enslaved this country, it's the bankers. Also FF who have eviscerated our social programs and given away our resources to private companies. None of them will do a day in prison. There will be no justice. forget sinn fein. they are nobodies. FF are completing the work of foreign powers harvesting the resources of the Irish people and leaving them destitute. Connolly was right. "without socialism, only the accents of the landlords will change."

author by kellypublication date Sat Sep 18, 2010 17:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

it is easy to critisise,and constantly look back in hindsight,but gerry adams has done more for ireland,he has had no interest in monetary gain,like most politicians,(north,and south),in ways that none of us can truly grasp,as with the nature of gerry adams being a very private individual.i know there are many fallen,who have let the nature of politics,which is not exactly straightforward,at the best of times,and the worst,embitter them deeply,pick yourself up and move on,and to all the trolls i have one thing to say,it is far too easy to critisise,it is much more difficult to get up and do what gerry adams did,i remember living in the days of gerry adams,and all the progress that was made,he never even cared about money.that is a true politician right there,out in the coldface of it all,getting all the flak,and still marching on,when all those death threats were first made,he still went on,he believed in freedom for our people and your people so much so that he did this,there is not a politican or war monger anywhere in the world who compares to gerry adams in my mind and in the minds and hearts of many in ireland.
ff and all the british politicians,were not the initiators of progress it was gerry adams and john hume..
there are people who are very divided in nature, and want to keep the old gangster ways alive,by cutting down all that was previously done.
i would happily vote for sinn fein again,but the only problem is,the sinn fein representatives in my local constituent are just like any other political party,full of greed and hate.

author by easy to criticise??publication date Sun Sep 19, 2010 15:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'when all those death threats were first made,he still went on'
what death threats exactly ? the ones the 'ceasefire soldiers' went around making
to potential 'dissidents', many a volunteer had people knocking on their doors in the dark of night threatening people to support the good friday agreement or else! sure wasnt vol. joe o'conner shot dead by the provisional R.M.? bobby tohill etc?
lets face it your another sell out like adams, i suppose you support evicting tenants that protest against the sectarian orange order marches too? Republicans are those who oppose british rule not those who support it.

author by kelly the penguin..publication date Sun Sep 19, 2010 16:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

''threatening people to support the good friday agreement or else!''----obviously you are not a native to our land.. ...............i don't know who talks more rubbish people (who have never experienced what it is to be irish on the eve of the good friday agreement,both prod and catholic),or joe f**g duffy!?

author by kelly the penguinpublication date Sun Sep 19, 2010 16:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i suppose the point i was really trying to make is there are very few politicians today in our society who are like gerry adams,who will have the courage and conviction to go ahead and achieve all he has acheived without all the flash benefits that some still get..all is well in ireland thanks to the likes of him.
and we in the republic have yet to thank him publically for all he has achieved for us all..
slainte !

author by Redundant Republicanpublication date Sun Sep 19, 2010 20:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No flash benefits or financial gain for Gerry Adams ! You are obviously not aware of Sinn Fein policy, they are paid the average industrial wage. What impresses me is how far they can stretch so little money. Gerry's wee pad in Donegal and his financial investments in the UK property market are proof of his financial ability. Minister for Finance would suit Gerry better than the Presidencey. Your country needs you Gerry, now more than ever. Actually all the leading shinners appear to have invested their average industrial wages very well, perhaps they invested in the Northern Bank. Keep on codding us lads.

author by joemcivorpublication date Wed Sep 22, 2010 16:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Paul Larkin's "vociferous" defence of PSF representatives in the article above sits awkwardly with his criticism of the Guardian . Perhaps Mr Larkin should have had a quiet word with the editor of An Phoblacht before firing off his indignant salvo to the Guardian.

Despite his apparant admiration of Martin McGuinness , Paul Larkin is not and has never been a member of PSF . So perhaps Larkin has never read the newspaper called An Phoblacht , which is almost certainly a PSF publication . Had he done so ,Mr Larkin would have surely noticed that An Phoblacht carries regular “exclusive” interviews with PSF luminaries such as Gerry Kelly , Martin McGuinness, and Gerry Adams .Not so long ago it used to to carry exclusive interviews with what it called the IRA before that organisation surrendered - sorry , helped advance the historic Irish peace process .

An “ exclusive” An Phoblacht interview with the IRA can be read here : http://republican-news.org/archive/2002/September12/12i....html

Another Phoblacht “exclusive interview with the IRA" here: http://www.anphoblacht.com/news/detail/7755

Had Paul ever read PSF’s online magazine, sinnfeinnews, he would hardly be unaware of the fact that the site often conducts what it refers to as “exclusive” interviews with Gerry Adams as well as with lesser PSF dignitaries . I even saw an “exclusive” interview with Sean Crowe there once would you believe ! A smiling Gerry Adams ,who is not and has never been a member of the IRA especially at the time of Bloody Friday , offers a free trial subscription of sinnfeinnews at this link : http://www.sinnfeinnews.com/news/sp . The free trial subscription offer isn't exclusive to PSF members - even non-members like Paul can sign up for it.

Before lecturing the Guardian on "journalistic standards" Paul Larkin should have familiarised himself with its basic vocabulary . An Phoblacht and sinnfeinnews are actually quite entitled to call their ad nauseum interviews with PSF leaders “exclusives” . A journalist or newspaper reaches an agreement with an interviewee that obliges the latter not to give the same interview(or a similar one) to another publication for a certain period of time. The journalist gets exclusive rights to the interview for that period .

author by wewillnotforgetpublication date Wed Sep 22, 2010 20:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

thanks to gerry adams and a few other key players on the republican scene,we have civility in ireland,north and south of the border,ff politicians and all the expenses they incur on their 3 day working hours,could not have acheived what gerry had achieved,and back in the day,when gerry was most 'active',there was no monetary gain,unlike those old gombeens in FF!
I lived through the era when GAY BYRNE REFUSED TO SHAKE GERRYS HAND BUT NOT PAISLEYS,(A MAN WHO INCITED MURDER OF MANY!!)..
I would happily vote sinn fein again,as at least they have our country's true interests at heart,supporting our culture and our way of life!

author by chun bas no saolpublication date Wed Sep 22, 2010 20:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

there was a time,we all lived through,with heavy corruption in the ruc(orange order police service lol), and collusion between them and the 'british intelligence of MI5',they did nothing but divide,by their dishonest and murderous actions,hence the present day :) sinn feins gerry adams,and of course who could forget john hume,who made this all possible,when the british and ff politicians,were getting big handouts,there were the politicians of the people in ireland,who genuinely wanted to achieve piece..
sinn fein did the impossible the dragged the true Irish freedom fighters out and offered them solutions,while walking the tightrope of critisisms on ALL SIDES.These are people i would VOTE FOR.
slainte!

author by for ourselvespublication date Wed Sep 22, 2010 22:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

'Sinn Féin's peace strategy evolved over a period of ten years. It began with the key documents, Scenario for Peace (1987) and Towards a Lasting peace in Ireland (1992).'
Gerry adams was a key agent in the peace process brought about on the republican side in 1996,the officially announced thier ceasefire.

http://www.sinnfein.ie/peace-process-2

All the other so called ira are just hang ons,trying to keep the cogs in civil unrest wheel going for their own gain of their own cartels..

Sinn Fein have achieved the impossible in the face of the bigoted No from the orange side..

author by joe mcivorpublication date Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:14author address author phone Report this post to the editors


Although I don’t agree with them , the views you express are very interesting and important so thanks for the insights into PSF supporters’ thinking . But there is a bit of thread creep going on here surely - away from the topic raised by non-PSF member Paul Larkin .It would be good to get the views of grassroot PSF members or supporters on the issues Mr Larkin raised . I’d like to hear whether they agree or not with Mr Larkin’s contention that the Guardian article wasn’t an exclusive and was unduly biased against PSF . Perhaps a comment from an official spokesperson for PSF would be in order.

author by In Your Head .. All in Your Head ..publication date Thu Sep 23, 2010 11:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I can accept that Sinn Fein initiated the peace process,no problem,there are some people who have nothing better to do then keep old tensions going for their OWN gain!

author by Belfastmanpublication date Thu Sep 23, 2010 22:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Good old Henry McDonald - like Billy (aka Liam) Clarke - was a member of the Workers' Party back in the 1980s. There should be no surprise that he pedals the same anti-Shinner agenda as rupert murdoch journalists. what is also depressing is that the man isnt particularly competent as a journalist.

author by Jacqueline Fallonpublication date Thu Sep 23, 2010 22:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Gerry's wee pad in Donegal and his financial investments in the UK property market are proof of his financial ability"

I would not rate Gerry Adams for his financial investments. I see no proof at all of his financial ability. I do not believe he is or was ever motivated or interested in money at all and that is shown by his total ignorance of it - if he was interested or greedy he would know something about the money markets and workings of the global financial system, but he clearly knows nothing of worth. I dread to think what would happen if he was handed Ireland's economy today, I doubt he would know where to start or what the hell to do with it, such is the complexity of the enormous mess Ireland's in at present, and if all he and his financial 'experts' did in the past was invest his money in property, well, that's not exactly proof of his financial ability nor would it inspire confidence.

author by Paul Larkin - Nonepublication date Fri Sep 24, 2010 09:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

@Belfastman you are spot on regarding the "contribution" of Workers Party journalists to discourse on our island.

Here is my response to the Guardian Ireland correspondent's subsequent warnings about "self censorship". This has also been posted at Cic Saor - www.fadooda.com - so if I am breaking a house rule please forgive me.

Henry McDonald’s House of Glass

Presumably at the behest of his editorial superiors, the Guardian's Ireland correspondent Henry McDonald followed up his smoke and mirrors “exclusive” (Guardian online 14th September - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/14/real-ira-targe...nkers) with an apologia for doing the story in the first place. The first article revealed a desire amongst anti peace process elements to wage war against bankers in England. The second article made things worse.

On reading the original article, where McDonald breathlessly tells us that his encounter with the Real IRA was like a scene from Coppola’s Godfather, I immediately made a complaint to the Guardian. My complaint had nothing to do with wishing to censor dissident republicans (something I would be completely opposed to) and everything to do with the needless melodrama and poor journalism displayed in McDonald's article. As Guardian correspondent for Ireland, it is incumbent upon McDonald to reflect the reality of what is going on in our country. Part of the reality of life in Ireland is that republican dissidents are desperate to talk to anyone who will listen to them. How then can McDonald’s story be an "exclusive"? Further, does the Guardian believe that any Irish person would raise even a follicle in an eyebrow at the suggestion that our dissidents aspire to kill British bankers?

In my complaint, I state that McDonald’s article represents a lowering of the Guardian's high standards but, with his apologia the following day, McDonald has gone on to bring the Guardian into the realm of gross hypocrisy.

McDonald’s explicatory follow up piece, the day after his Real IRA “spectacular” focuses on Margaret Thatcher's 1988 Broadcasting Ban, which sought to cut off what she called the IRA’s “oxygen of publicity”. This can be read here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2010/sep/15/rea...icity

In insisting that it is important that the media talks to armed groups in Ireland (a position I support and I have the bruises to prove it) McDonald warns us about the dangers of censorship – “it is alarming that there is so much self-censorship out there”, he cries.

The problem for Henry McDonald is that the Irish political party, of which he was a long term member, wholeheartedly supported Thatcher's British Broadcasting Ban. Not only that, in Southern Ireland, members of his party (Official Sinn Féin/Republican Clubs and finally the Workers Party), who were always extremely prominent in the Irish media, actively campaigned for censorship of Provisional Sinn Féin and the IRA as it was then constituted.

The Southern Irish equivalent of Thatcher's gagging device, called Section 31, was the Jewel in the Crown of an anti Provo alliance involving the Workers Party, Fine Gael and (shamefully) elements of the Labour Party. Section 31 was even more stringent than the ban on Gerry Adams et al in the North of Ireland and Britain. In fact, journalists in the south (some of them now household names and very often under the influence of the Workers Party) were so eager to apply censorship that the courts had to tell them to stop self censoring themselves. There is a great irony here given McDonald's admonishments regarding self censorship in his Real IRA apologia in the Guardian.

McDonald himself describes being sworn into the Stalinist Official IRA's junior wing (fierce opponents of the Provisional IRA) in 1976. This description comes on page 155 of his book Colours. “I was finally enlisting in a secret People’s Army that was no longer meant to exist", he says.

In 1989, and in the middle of the worst period of anti Provo censorship, McDonald is to be found expressing his delight at the Workers Party’s electoral successes that year and attending a celebration at their HQ in Dublin (see Colours page 166). This is no flash in the pan political fixation with a party that supports the type of censorship that he is now warning us against. To be fair, Henry McDonald has at least been consistent, because even today he still argues the Workers Party position in his books. It is perhaps for this reason that in his last two books (Colours and Gunsmoke and Mirrors), McDonald says absolutely nothing about the iniquities of anti Provisional censorship, yet in this Wednesday’s Guardian the right to give a voice to the Real IRA has become a central issue.

To be clear, I do not deny McDonald’s right to hold his clearly long standing political position. He swore an oath of allegiance to a particular political (and paramilitary) view and has never so much as hinted that he regretted that decision. However, given his Workers Party antecedents and the fact that he still firmly expounds the “Sticky” position in his books, he should desist from the type of astounding hypocrisy he shows in his “oxygen of publicity” article. Or at least, he should explain to us why he is performing these journalistic and political somersaults.

Nor, finally, is McDonald's hypocrisy simply confined to his sudden aversion to censorship. In Wednesday’s Real IRA apologia, McDonald waxes lyrical about the “amazing gains” made by the Irish peace process. And he goes on - "So much has been achieved as a result of years of painstaking work and dialogue. The end result has been the once-unthinkable sight of Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionists sharing power together.”

Henry McDonald's latest book Gunsmoke and Mirrors is an unrelenting assault (his word) on Provisional Sinn Féin and its approach to the peace process; so much so that the dust cover of the book does not speak of the “amazing gains” achieved by Sinn Fein and the DUP but rather says – “How Sinn Féin dressed up defeat as victory".

Will the real Henry McDonald please stand up and report Ireland properly and consistently?

Related Link: http://www.fadooda.com
author by THE END IS ALWAYS NIGH BITTER UNIONISTSpublication date Fri Sep 24, 2010 14:55author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The unionists to this day ..have not got their s*** together,even with the help of british intelligence...!
M15,and of course the corrupted RUC police force,who were resistant to reforms until certain pressures were put on them from the nationalist side,we too remember the injustices put down upon our shoulders,and they were far greater and unrelenting due to the connection of intelligence between the UVF AND THE RUC.

These statements made are the ramblings of the bitter..

''Henry McDonald's latest book Gunsmoke and Mirrors is an unrelenting assault (his word) on Provisional Sinn Féin and its approach to the peace process; so much so that the dust cover of the book does not speak of the “amazing gains” achieved by Sinn Fein and the DUP but rather says – “How Sinn Féin dressed up defeat as victory".''

The fact that the nationalists acheived SO MUCH in the peace process,obviously has made some very bitter..

How is acheiving the peace process a defeat dressed up as a victory???

author by Rorypublication date Fri Sep 24, 2010 18:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have known some people who are republicans TRUE REPUBLICANS..And they gave usour INDEPENDANCE,free from british oppression,and frequent attacks,deceptions,and terrorist operations,boys playing with their new toys..The True REPUBLICANS,who where the IRA,gave us our freedom,not like the gangsters that are around today..

author by kellypublication date Fri Sep 24, 2010 18:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

When their were endless possibilities for explotation of irish people across the board,all irish phones were tapped,in the days of the elusive brick style wall street mobile phone,there were concerned nationalists,bringing this to the wider attention of the irish public on our televisions and radio's of this breach of human right to privacy,who were defending the ever persecuted people of the north of ireland,there were many irish who were watched,and tapped more so for financial gain,than ''cracking down on irish terrorism'',as one lady margaret thatcher put it..

author by fishtrawlerpublication date Sat Sep 25, 2010 18:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Guardian is hardly a newspaper held with high regard,there are certain newspapers to be avoided,as some journalists who are stepping over the boundaries for the sake of stepping over the boundaries,i remember some years back,when a newspaper made a report on the goings on in baldonnel air base,and as a direct result of that report,some madman ran in with a stick of gellignite and selotaped it to an employees legs and attempted to blow him up,this can be looked up in the archives.There are a lot of attempts to get the mass hysteria going,to the detriment of PUBLIC SAFETY.
Journalists do not care of the outcome,of people directly affected by their sensationalist over dramatised spectacle and over simplified half truths mixed in with lies.

author by Paul Larkinpublication date Sat Sep 25, 2010 21:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

@ McIvor

I'm not going to respond to your overall points on this thread as some of these have been so inane and puerile that they were pulled down by the moderators on this site.

I will only say this:

My name is Paul Thomas Dominic Larkin. I am a Manchester Irish communist who has also been heavily influenced by the arguments of Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxembourg and Nestor Makhnov . These latter influences caused my Grandfather (Suaimhneas Dé go síoraigh ar a anam) great distress as he was a confirmed Stalinist. This is the way I was brought up.

I live on the North Circular Road in Dublin and am a fairly well known journalist and film maker. Any who person who wishes to know about me will discover my basic background and beliefs within five minutes of research.

I do not hide behind pseudonyms, deliberately false names and secret addresses. I have always had a policy, even when dealing with people like the late Billy Wright, of telling people exactly who I am and what I believe.

So I invite you "McIvor" to tell us exactly who you are, where you live (more or less - we don’t need the address) and what you believe.

Related Link: http://www.fadooda.com
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