Monday 22 April 2019

Role of media as watchdog still vital to our democracy

Robert Redford in All the President's Men
Robert Redford in All the President's Men

It was the 40th anniversary of Watergate in August, which was a seismic event in 1974.

US President, Republican Richard Nixon, resigned on August 9 that year to avoid impeachment. He fired his close aides, but in the end the buck stopped with him, and Vice President Gerald Ford replaced him and granted him a pardon months later to help the country heal, as he put it.

It may never have happened only for the 'Washington Post's executive editor, Ben Bradlee and its journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (immortalised in 'All the President's Men') finding out what was behind the break-in into the Democratic National Committee HQ in the Watergate Complex in Washington DC in June, months before the 1972 presidential election, which saw Nixon into his second term.

'Deep Throat' was one of their famous sources and was said never to be wrong. He was revealed a few years ago to have been a top FBI man.

What they found led to a two-year battle with the president and his aides, as the newspaper uncovered information, bit by bit, about how some close to Nixon were involved in the break-in to discover what the Democrats were doing to in the 1972 election.

Spying on rivals' political camps was not unusual, but phone taps and break-ins were, and the ''Washington Post' discovered these were a threat to democracy.

Nixon and his aides, who knew of the break-in, acted like they were untouchable. The integrity of the US federal legal system was severely tested.

The newspaper, alone at first, kept to its task and in the end Nixon's recordings of conversations in the Oval Office forced him to resign. Crucial to this was investigating judge, John J Sirica, who insisted on the tapes being handed over.

The five main players involved in the break-in were jailed, along with a former US attorney general. When Ben Bradlee became editor in 1968, the 'Washington Post' was in the backwater and he wanted it to be a better newspaper.

He achieved this with Pulitzer Prizes and with controversies he had to face head on. He retired as editor in 1991.

Bradlee received the Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2013. Here, in Ireland, the media exposed wrongdoings by Church and State and is also an important watchdog in protecting our democracy.

Mary Sullivan

Cork Curbing population growth

Recent statistics show that one in eight do not have enough to eat globally.

Almost every 12 or 13 years another billion is added to the global population, yet why does this issue never seem to get the media attention or debate it so crucially deserves?

The world's scientists spend time searching for cures to life-ending diseases, yet disease is nature's way of keeping global population numbers at controllable levels.

If there were no diseases - which is what some people would like - countries would have to spend astronomical amounts on aid for famine-stricken nations.

As controversial as it may be, leading nations must at some point face this and restrict population growth through sterilisation.

John O'Brien

Drogheda, Co Louth

Paisley was just one of a kind

I cannot help but think of Peter Robinson's tribute to Ian Paisley in Stormont last week, in which we were told that we would, "never see [Paisley's] like again".

That's alright by me.

Killian Foley-Walsh


Saving the world - that's rich

As our former President Mary Robinson expresses her concerns that 'We're running out of time to save the world' perhaps she should take a closer look at the UN.

The UN, in the recent past, has been condemned for the overexpenditure by officials.

Much of the expense is due to upgrading to business and first class airline travel.

Marion Murphy

Sallins, Kildare

U2 take a page from Glen's book

Recent coverage of U2 and their 'free' music reminds me of what the great Glen Campbell once sang: "Looking back, I can remember a time when I sang my songs for free." So if it's good enough for Glen . . .

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

A rain dance in a downpour

So, Budget fever has descended again. Meanwhile, people are invited to "apply" for free water that already runs in their taps.

In what is resembling the equivalent of performing a rain dance in the middle of a downpour, the citizens are being asked to hand over their children's private information.

Considering these two points, is it fair to ask whether those immigrants that are here from the EU will also be getting a water allowance for their children back home in the same way they get children's allowance.

Or is the children's allowance just Germany's (and indeed the troika's) way of transferring monies within the eurozone at Ireland's expense?

Might I suggest that Joan Burton attends herself to these poor unfortunate children that live in foreign and cheaper economies with the full benefit of our high-cost allowances.

Perhaps a whistle-stop tour of the former Eastern Bloc countries would be in order.

She might even be accompanied by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, fresh in his basking glory of having announced tax incentives to the dairy sector - the one sector of farmers who are not, ironically, complaining about the price of their produce having already benefited from a government hike in the price of their product.

Meanwhile, the rest of us poor plebs can await the drippings from Enda's table; not unlike those who awaited the soup from the kind Quakers in the times of Trevelyan.

Who knows, if Joan and Simon were to go on such a trip, the vacuum could be filled by the new media darling and historian of some note - John Bruton.

Dermot Ryan

Athenry, Co Galway

Farrell doesn't need saving

I read with increasing incredulity the disrespectful comments in Ed Power's article regarding Colin Farrell ('Can a TV show save Colin's career?' Irish Independent, September 23).

By any criteria, Farrell is one of this country's leading acting talents.

That the article was instigated by his casting as a lead role in a major American television series surely is its own response.

He considers 'In Bruges' overrated, although it was a Golden Globe-winning performance by Farrell.

He compares him with other "failures" such as Oscar winners Angelina Jolie and Kevin Spacey. He also complains that Farrell does not live "outrageously enough" as a celebrity.

Having had the privilege of watching Farrell at work, he is a dedicated professional, determined to give his best to the project, able to play comedy and drama with equal success, and encouraging and supportive to everyone in front of and behind the camera.

It is a pity that Mr Power has not had this advantage.

There are many criteria to quantify the success of an acting role, not only Mr Power's "bums on seats", but by any balanced view, Farrell is an international success, of whom we should be proud.

James Finnegan

Tralee, Co Kerry

Irish Independent

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