Friday 2 December 2016

Eoghan Harris: Section 31 saved many young men of 20 from PIRA

Published 08/01/2012 | 05:00

CONTEXT was the first casualty of RTE News's coverage of the 1981 State papers. Last Saturday, David McCullagh reported with relish that the then Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, asked Paddy Cooney to lift Section 31 (which kept the Provos off the air) and thus put RTE reporters "on their best behaviour".

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McCullagh has written a history of John A Costello. As a historian, he should know the importance of context. He had a moral obligation to add that FitzGerald later changed his mind completely on Section 31 -- and left ample documentary evidence to show he had done so.

In his 1992 memoir, All In A Life, FitzGerald rejected the NUJ notion that RTE reporters could deal with the Provos: "The claim, frequently made, that if free expression were allowed, the potential damage from the publicising of extreme views would be countered by skilled journalistic handling, including interviews with IRA spokesmen, has no obvious foundation."

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