independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Eoghan Harris: Resignation of Montrose top two needed to rid RTE of rot

Last Sunday, the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, gave me a good plug on Marian Finucane's show: "Eoghan Harris is one of the best polemicists around."





This was both generous and a sign of Rabbitte's intellectual security.

Intellectual insecurity is the main mark of a politically motivated minority in Montrose. Those who secretly pull the strings on some programmes cannot cope with any challenge to their three core positions: softness on Sinn Fein, hardness on Israel, hatred of pluralist values. Hence their fear of hard polemicists like Kevin Myers or myself whom they keep off air.

The majority in Montrose deserve better than the machinations of this minority.

Correspondents like David Davin Power in Dublin, Tommie Gorman in Belfast and Tony Connelly in Europe are better than their BBC counterparts. Most RTE programmes give good value for money. Last year Irish-language television programmes attracted an astounding audience of 10.5 million at an average cost of only 12 cent per viewer.

The problems are with some sections of RTE. That is why the RTE Authority Chairman Tom Savage and Director-General Noel Curran should go. Not because of what they have done, but because of what they have not done: cleared out the covert supporters of Sinn Fein's republican- socialist agenda, who have been hiding out in RTE since the Section 31 controversy of the Eighties.

The existence of these elements has been shown up in documented research.

A recent study of the 16-month period either side of the last General Election, carried out by Fianna Fail and revealed in this newspaper, showed that Sinn Fein were winning out over Fianna Fail in the allocation of TV time, and coverage of the opposition generally had decreased since Labour went into government.

Sinn Fein's influence on the station is also acknowledged by those few -- very few -- journalists who are not inhibited by fear of losing precious invitations to suck up to RTE presenters.

Last Tuesday, Andrew Lynch, writing in the Evening Herald, rightly traced the roots of RTE's soft treatment of Sinn Fein back to the Eighties rows about Section 31, which banned Sinn Fein: "Sadly there are many people in Donnybrook who now seem to regard that as a terrible historical injustice -- and are determined to make up for it by giving Gerry Adams and his pals as easy a ride as possible. . . the grim reality is that in many ways RTE and Sinn Fein have similar views of the world."

Bruce Arnold, in the Irish Independent last Tuesday, came to the same conclusion: "RTE has been, over a number of years, pro-Sinn Fein."

He concludes: "A strange amorphous and slanted 'canteen culture' prevails in RTE."

Like Andrew Lynch, I believe the rot in RTE started with the Section 31 row. That row is still raging in the minds of certain people in RTE. They make a great racket about my alleged activities -- which were to support the government policy on Section 31 -- so as to cover up the real roots of the problem.

As I have recounted here many times, the republican-socialist problem began with the recruitment of a raft of student Trotskyites in the Seventies and early Eighties.

Most of them became active in the anti-Section 31 campaigns. In the course of these campaigns, some of them moved closer to Sinn Fein, but did not publicly say so.

As they moved up the ranks of RTE, they recruited radical chic people who reflected their views. After 25 years of this closed shop recruiting it is hardly surprising that a republican-socialist culture has infected the political culture of RTE. This was starkly revealed by RTE's overall failure to put Martin McGuinness under pressure about the IRA murder of gardai, prison officers and soldiers in the Irish Republic.

Tom Savage and Noel Curran should have publicly stated a strong position on this issue.

But they did not do that and they show no signs of doing so. They might claim it is not necessary to say something that is, they would say, obviously true. But it is necessary. And it is as important -- just as important and necessary as stating that anonymous tweets must be checked, and reports from abroad making horrendous allegations about missionary priests, need to be thoroughly investigated.

Let me ask Noel Curran a rhetorical question. How come he (and former RTE Director-General Cathal Goan) could tell an Oireachtas committee they were "uneasy" about my polemical performance on the perfectly balanced Late Late Show panel for the General Election 2007 -- but not express any public "unease" about the soft ride RTE gave Martin McGuinness, or indeed any other issue involving republican socialism in RTE?

But Savage and Curran continue to preside over an RTE culture which retrospectively hounds those of us who supported Section 31.

The Broadcasting Acts are also meant to protect critics of RTE. So why have Savage and Curran consistently failed to question why Myers and myself have been marginalised for so many years? Or challenged the way RTE's near monopoly of patronage is used to reward pets and punish pariahs?

RTE's pets include: plausible ex-Provos, Palestinian spokespersons and pundits prepared to be patronised in return for putting the boot into the bloody corpse of Fianna Fail, into the conservative wing of Fine Gael or into the Sunday Independent.

RTE's pariahs include: revisionists who think the Provos have no right to put the past behind them without proper public atonement, priests with traditional views, supporters of the state of Israel, conservatives, critics of highly paid public servants (which includes RTE presenters) and (again) the Sunday Independent.

Given RTE's power of patronage it takes a major act of political courage to challenge RTE's line on Sean Gallagher, as Leo Varadkar and Lucinda Creighton did this week.

The same courage is hard to find in media circles where so many commentators depending on RTE patronage were badly caught out by the BAI judgement on Sean Gallagher.

The problems at RTE are compounded by the complex web of influence in Irish politics and media. When Eamon O Cuiv used FoI questions to elicit the earnings of print pundits who contributed to RTE, Terry Prone complained in the Irish Examiner that this would cost RTE "enormous amounts of human hours and misery".

Terry Prone is married to Tom Savage, the Chairman of RTE. She is also an advisor to Enda Kenny, a close friend of Enda Kenny's wife, a member of Kenny's 'kitchen cabinet' and a regular guest on Pat Kenny's radio show.

Given that public/ private/political/media web, is it likely Tom Savage will be asked any awkward questions by the establishment about his failure to face down the RTE hush puppies who keep critics like Kevin Myers and myself on a blacklist?

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