The true value of our freedom
Published 30/10/2011 | 05:00
Sometimes democracies treat the right to vote far too casually. Nothing epitomised this more than the subterranean denigration of the presidential election, for, whilst the office may be a bauble, it taught a political elite that has become far too satisfied with itself in far too short a time, for far too few reasons, a number of salutary lessons. One of the most critical of those is the role an unfettered press plays in a mature democracy. The shock of Martin McGuinness over his less-than-deferential treatment by some of the Irish media has, we hope, provided Sinn Fein with a valuable tutorial on the differences between a pluralist Republic and the Stalinist school of unity found in Republican enclaves such as West Belfast.
The Haughey-style response of Mr McGuinness to Miriam O'Callaghan was another example of how those who challenge the media most viscerally are generally those who have the most to hide. And it should also be noted that the media played an equally valuable role in revealing much about Sean Gallagher that was not initially obvious to the electorate. Mr Gallagher has a bright future; but only if he openly acknowledges his political past, for character, rather than a facility for myth-making, is what we now require in our politicians.
Such rights should be cherished in a world where freedom is more threatened than any time since the construction of the Berlin wall. Throughout Europe, democracy and the freedom of the press are experiencing a real devaluation courtesy of the vile rule of media magnates such as Berlusconi. Other key freedoms such as the liberty provided by work, access to education and house ownership which is not accompanied by the sort of crippling mortgage debts that has turned citizens into share-croppers are all equally under threat.