Monday 14 October 2019

Eoghan Harris: 'In tribal times we can still trust Tommie Gorman'

Illustration by Jim Cogan
Illustration by Jim Cogan
Eoghan Harris

Eoghan Harris

Tommie Gorman is not just a good journalist, he is a great peacemaker.

Brexit brought out the best in him. Even as tribal typhoons raged round him, he stood steady in the eye of the storm, delivering his calm dispatches.

Last week he seemed to be the only journalist in Ireland who remembered the tolerant glory of the Good Friday Agreement.

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He makes no secret of mourning the decent days when Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness treated each other with civility.

Back then, the doyens of the Irish media did not demean unionists with tribal taunts to disguise their compliance with the con-job called the backstop.

Leo Varadkar let the DFA design the backstop to bully the Brits and the unionists into a customs union, under the cover of stopping a hard border.

But that cover is blown. The Brits say they will not put up customs posts. Ironically, only the EU will erect a hard border.

On Brexit, as with health and housing, Leo Varadkar is again taking his usual semi-detached stance.

He harps on about the horrors of a no-deal as if his backstop was not the main cause of no deal.

Last week saw the media bourgeoisie asking him no hard questions and still beating up on the DUP.

SUNDAY. St Patrick's Day. Simon Coveney rightly rebukes Mary Lou McDonald for marching behind an 'England Get Out of Ireland' banner.

He says: "This is not Ireland 2019. We are better than this." But are we?

Philip Boucher-Hayes, an RTE presenter, sends a tweet depicting Arlene Foster-Kelly as a waitress at the Trump table. Three-thousand people "liked" the tweet. Among them Deirdre Heenan, who is on our Council of State.

On RTE radio, Justin McCarthy, echoing an ill-advised jibe from Colum Eastwood, asks Tommie Gorman if the DUP is just being difficult to get money.

Tommie explains that this is money already negotiated by the DUP for Northern Ireland and is of general benefit to the island.

Ever the pluralist peacemaker, he explains that the DUP does not want a hard border, but does have trouble with the backstop.

"They just want a Brexit that doesn't weaken the union... basically what they're looking for are reassurances that they're not going to be singled out in a very, very obvious way."

Because he's from Sligo, Tommie Gorman covers Northern Ireland with no tribal baggage. As a result, he is trusted by both sides.

MONDAY. To Tralee to teach an ETB course on screenwriting skills. Past graduates include Alan Esslemont, boss of TG4, and Cliona O'Leary, deputy head of sport in RTE.

Seems I'm good enough to train future RTE staff but not appear on air. Have they no shame?

John Bercow makes another blustering bid to hog the limelight. Hog is the word. Germans call people like Bercow a rampensau. Literally a pig who loves a stage.

TUESDAY: Niall O'Dowd, in Irish Central, defends Mary Lou McDonald's marching antics, assuring us from the USA that attacks on her will "backfire badly".

Since it was Simon Coveney who attacked McDonald, I waited for Niall O'Dowd to denounce Fine Gael, party of his brother Fergus O'Dowd, TD.

Instead he directs his ire at Micheal Martin and Fianna Fail whom he describes as "neo-unionist" presumably for the crime of reaching out to unionists. Like real republicans should.

Describing McDonald in glowing terms, Niall O'Dowd tells us she could "oversee the party come to power North and South".

Does O'Dowd have no business friends to tell him that, in that event, capital would fly the country?

TUESDAY. The Irish Examiner proclaims "Michael Conlan's pro-IRA ringwalk song angers unionist politicians".

Only unionists? Surely it should anger decent people down here, too? Belfast councillor Brian Kingston (DUP) certainly spoke for me and others.

"Very disappointing that Michael Conlan does not follow the lead of many previous boxing and sporting heroes so that people can support him across the divide in Ireland."

On The Tonight Show, Darragh O'Brien does his best to hold back the bilious Hibernians by paraphrasing Micheal Martin's version of Wolfe Tone Republicanism.

But then he spoils it by echoing Colum Eastwood's jaded jibe that the DUP "was about money and what else they could get".

Cue cheap sniggers from the panel, including a delighted Eoin O Broin.

WEDNESDAY. Tommie Gorman highlights Sinn Fein's increasingly untenable abstention position by recalling the failure of an amendment by Labour's Hilary Benn.

Tabled on March 14, it would have given parliament, rather than the government, control over how Brexit should proceed.

The amendment was defeated by only two votes. Sinn Fein has seven votes. Again proving Sinn Fein is surplus to requirements.

On Tonight, Dublin city councillor Paul McAuliffe, of Fianna Fail, makes a rare cogent case for the backstop simply by giving us no FG guff about the GFA.

"If we don't have a backstop then the EU ends up enforcing a border on the island of Ireland. The backstop is a way of protecting the single market."

Councillor McAuliffe, firmly on Martin message, added: "At every step Leo has sought to spook the British public by seeking to claim victories where there were no victories."

A BBC NI special on 'Brexit & Irish Nationalism' showed even a moderate unionist like the affable MLA Steve Aiken (UUP) felt that Varadkar and Coveney handled them badly.

"Both Simon and Leo - and I've told them directly to their face... deliberately, for whatever party political reasons, raised the heat on the issue."

Aiken looked back nostalgically. "For Fine Gael ministers to be pulling on the green jersey on these issues has really broken down relationships and not being able to have that North-South-East-West dialogue the way it was before. And the way it was between Enda Kenny and Theresa May right at the beginning."

THURSDAY. Taking up Tommie Gorman's point about Hilary Benn's defeat, Sean O'Rourke grills Mary Lou McDonald about SF abstentionism. But Niall O'Dowd's lauded potential leader of the Irish people just waffles and waffles.

FRIDAY. Helen McEntee inadvertently exposes the hypocrisy of the Irish Government and media on Morning Ireland.

"If a no-deal scenario is the only option left... we need to sit down with the Commission and with the UK... and essentially this is negotiation as to how we can avoid borders on the island of Ireland."

But if the EU and the UK can sit down in a future no-deal scenario, why didn't Fine Gael ask the EU to sit down first day and eliminate the risk of an enforced border and the danger of a no-deal that would destroy the Irish economy?

Sunday Independent

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