Thursday 27 June 2019

Philip Ryan: Tycoon's newspapers stick to his anti-European views

Murdoch's Dublin-based titles backed Brexit and are now trying to influence the repeal vote, writes Philip Ryan

Photo: PA
Photo: PA
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

the European Union and all that Brussels bureaucracy has a great way of unifying the country nowadays. We all love to call ourselves Europeans and give two fingers to those traitors in London who want out of the Union.

Brexit has dramatically amplified the country's rivalry with our British neighbours. It's like Ray Houghton heading the ball past Peter Shilton in the Neckarstadion, Stuttgart, times 20.

EU agreements on post-Brexit trade relations are celebrated like Tommy Bowe cruising through England's defence to ruin their Grand Slam ambitions.

Leo Varadkar all but puts on a green jersey when he attends EU summits in Brussels.

We imagine Jean-Claude Juncker has become a Colm Meaney-type character in a Roddy Doyle novel who loves a drink and hates the Brits.

Even at home, politicians band together to slag off the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg for their contempt of Brussels. Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are practically one party when it comes to throwing digs at Westminster politicians.

There is certainly a new-found national glee over the ramshackle state of UK politics and society in general across the Irish sea.

On Twitter, the baying mob tut-tuts in unison when UK newspapers condemn judges and politicians on their front pages for their views on Brexit.

The usual folk on Twitter fall over themselves to condemn the likes of the The Sun, Daily Mail and Telegraph for their editorial stance on the referendum result which, we are told, will damn us all to hell in a handcart.

However, the same people turn a blind eye when British news organisations based here take clear positions on sensitive areas of public policy.

Last week, the Rupert Murdoch-owned The Times Ireland Edition was criticised for using its platform to essentially campaign for the introduction of abortion in this country.

The fledgling newspaper also faced questions over what were seen as pro-abortion stories from its sister newspaper, the Irish edition of The Sunday Times, which were promoted on Facebook. The content was aimed at Facebook users who showed an interest in the abortion debate.

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said she would have concerns about any media organisation seeking to influence the referendum result when asked about The Times's overt support for abortion in Ireland. "I would have a concern that any media outlet would report in an impartial way," the minister said.

"With respect to your profession, there is a responsibility to provide a balanced approach and it isn't helpful that, I think, anybody needs to be told what to do from a media outlet or news organisation. I wouldn't welcome it but sometimes you can't control it," she said.

The British newspaper was accused of bias by pro-life TD Mattie McGrath for its stance on the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

"The media is duty bound to be fair and impartial where issues like this take place," McGrath said. The newspaper's editor Richie Oakley defended the News Corp publication's decision to publicly back changing Ireland's abortion laws and insisted it would not affect the accuracy of its news stories.

Murdoch's views on abortion are unclear, although he said it was "refreshing" when Pope Francis stated that the Catholic Church was spending too much time obsessing about abortion, homosexuality and birth control.

However, Murdoch's views on the European Union are clear. At an event organised by The Times in London, the media tycoon described Britain's decision to leave the EU as "wonderful". It was like a "prison break", he said.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Andy Hilton gave a fascinating insight into why Murdoch is so vehemently opposed to the EU.

"I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. 'That's easy,' he replied. 'When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice'," Hilton wrote.

Murdoch's campaign to break up the EU has not been confined to his British titles, according former employees. After Ireland rejected the first Lisbon Treaty referendum, a former Sunday Times columnist said she was told by her editor Frank Fitzgibbon that the newspaper would not publish any articles backing further integration of the European Union.

The piece penned by Sarah Carey for The Irish Times did not state whether Fitzgibbon's alleged diktat was sent from London or if it was a decision taken by himself.

However, The Sunday Times in Ireland did print an editorial calling for Britain to leave the European Union, giving it the distinction of being the only Irish broadsheet newspaper to back Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg's Brexit campaign.

Brexit has the potential to severely damage our economy, yet a British-owned newspaper saw fit to publish a lengthy editorial calling for it.

Its sister newspaper, The Times Ireland Edition, has now decided the outcome of the abortion referendum before we even know what we are being asked to vote for. Since its inception, the newspaper has been publishing stories and analysis calling for the introduction of abortion in Ireland. Editor Richie Oakley has insisted his newspaper will be in favour of changing our abortion laws.

The legislation for unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy has not been finalised. The referendum wording hasn't even been officially published.

But, yet again, a Murdoch title has decided what the Irish people should do before many of those people have had a chance to consider it ourselves.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss