RTE Trots are gearing up for General Election 2016
Published 13/12/2015 | 02:30
Last week, Kevin Humphreys TD said Sinn Fein had no "moral compass".
The Labour junior minister's use of the word "moral" contrasts sharply with the evasive explanations from other politicians when asked what's wrong with Sinn Fein as a coalition partner.
Most of them waffle about Sinn Fein's spendthrift economic policies. That's not likely to frighten voters, given Brendan Howlin's profligate policies on public sector pay and pensions.
What does worry voters is the evidence of Sinn Fein ambivalence about political violence.
This surfaced again during coverage of convicted garda killer Pearse McAuley's attack on his wife, former Sinn Fein councillor Pauline Tully.
During a live radio show, Councillor Louise O'Reilly, of Sinn Fein, refused to condemn the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. She belatedly did so but the delay left a bad "moral" taste.
Tully herself showed some ambivalence on the Marian Finucane radio show when she spoke of McAuley's murder of McCabe as having been committed in a "war" situation.
Tully could have expressed some sympathy with another McAuley victim, Ann McCabe, the widow of Det Gda Jerry McCabe. She did not do so.
Certainly, Tully is entitled to sympathy as a victim of domestic abuse. But she's hardly a feminist icon.
This is a preamble to pointing out that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour will find it hard going in the General Election of 2016 if they don't deal with Sinn Fein on two fronts.
First, they will have to put more stress on the political and moral problem posed by Sinn Fein.
Second, and more pressingly, they will have to challenge RTE's peculiar political culture.
Sinn Fein councillors are already popping up on RTE with increasing frequency, giving solo performances on nearly every topic of the day.
RTE reporters seldom remind these Sinn Fein pontificators of the party's past links to the massive criminal corruption of the Provisional IRA.
Privately, politicians in other parties are perturbed at what they perceive as a pervasive pro-Sinn Fein bias in RTE. But they are baffled, both by how it works and what to do about it.
This frustration is compounded by the fact that most RTE reporters they meet are honest and honourable men and women who would reject any allegation of bias on behalf of Sinn Fein.
So why the common perception RTE gives Sinn Fein a soft ride - a perception supported by examples such as the tardiness in taking up the Mairia Cahill case?
Bias thrives on a closed shop. And RTE's is a cross between that of a political party - albeit one with much more continuity and permanency of employment - and that of an American GI base.
RTE staff seldom leave the station. Even when they do, they eventually return to emotional scenes, as if they were prisoners released from a private sector prison.
Those in Camp Montrose live, eat, and socialise together. Not surprisingly, they reproduce themselves, recruiting relatives and friends who share their political views.
That closed "canteen" culture makes it easier for a tiny group of Sinn Fein sympathisers to tweak the system, using the "peace process" as a palatable cover.
Furthermore, it facilitates the growth of two types of groupthink which slot seamlessly into each other: a left-liberal agenda and a softness about Sinn Fein.
By 'left-liberal agenda', I do not mean a progressive approach to gay marriage or reforming the abortion laws, both of which I strongly support.
The RTE left-liberal agenda replicates that of another closed culture, the BBC, in an attitude to foreign policy which is anti-American, anti-intervention and comes close to a form of Corbynism.
Now of course, a bias about foreign policy is no great matter, provided we are not plunged into a global crisis.
The bias that really matters is the groupthink which gives succour to Sinn Fein. And its historical roots run deep.
It began over 35 years ago when RTE recruited a raft of staff who were members of tiny Trotskyite parties like the Revolutionary Marxist Group and the International Marxist Group.
The common factor among all these Trotskyite groups was that they gave "conditional support" to the armed struggle of the Provisional IRA.
In RTE this "conditional support" took the form of a campaign to abolish Section 31, which kept the Provo IRA off the airwaves.
To its shame, the Workers Party also supported the abolition of Section 31. So while I supported the WP's anti-Provo policies, I did not agree with its politically correct policy on Section 31.
That is why, in the early 1980s, the campaign which myself and colleagues like Gerry Gregg conducted against the Trotskyites in RTE was carried out on a personal political and "moral" basis.
We refused to accept the Trotskyites' claim that Section 31 was a free-speech issue simply because we did not trust the Trotskyite parties because of their policy of "conditional" support for the Provisional IRA.
As the Trotskyites aged they recycled their own kind of politics with each fresh intake of recruits.
That saved the Provos' sophisticated intelligence units a lot of trouble. Down the years they had planted low-level agents in the gardai, the Defence Forces and the public service.
But while they had a few sleepers in RTE, the Provos did not have to bother too much because so many Trot sympathisers were already in place.
Let me stress the RTE Trots are a tiny minority. So why do we see Sinn Fein councillors popping up all over the place?
This is how it works. As soon as there is any kind of political crisis affecting Sinn Fein, the Trot sympathisers create a cultural climate around that question.
That cultural climate creates a hostility to outside critics, particularly to critics and media outlets which take a sceptical attitude to Sinn Fein.
The climate clings to honest reporters as closely as their skin. So closely they hardly notice the nudging.
And it often leads to hesitation in going in hard on Sinn Fein.
Hence, reporting of the Mairia Cahill rape case was delayed for three days, although Jonathan Healy's Lunchtime on Newstalk was on top of it from the start.
RTE chiefs kick to touch when asked about Sinn Fein bias. So from January 2016, the main parties should set up monitoring units based on best practice.
Armed with facts, they can take further action, starting with a hard look at the television licence.