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Terry Prone: He's one of the good guys but we all know why Trevor had to go

There he is, today, grim-faced but ever courteous, in pictures on the front pages of the newspapers that brought him down.

Never mind Twitter, without application of which on a daily basis Dan Boyle gets withdrawal symptoms.

Twitter's not what changed the faces at the top in Irish politics in recent weeks.

It was done by newspapers. First came John O'Donoghue, who broke no law and who didn't even do something "unlawful." He just put in for a lot of expenses.

Lots of political figures, down the years, have done the same.

Let's 'fess up: lots of journalists have taken whatever was going in their expenses allowance.

But times have changed, and when one newspaper cleverly and consistently used the Freedom of Information process on the Ceann Comhairle, he had to relinquish the robes, the central desk in the chamber and the role itself.

John O'Donoghue will always feel hard done by, but the reality was that a newspaper was doing what a newspaper should do: ask difficult questions and print the answers. Or non-answers. Then came the blowing up of Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea.

Recorded

Now, when this one hit the fan, the opposition hit the ceiling about a falsely sworn affidavit being submitted to one of the highest courts in the State. The public got exercised over a quite different angle of the saga.

The public listened to the playback of the newspaper reporter's recorded interview with the minister.

Or read the transcript of that interview in their newspaper.

They did not like the nudge-nudge, nod-is-as-good-as-a-wink-to-a-blind-horse way that a Government minister set out to destroy the candidacy of a budding political rival.

It put their teeth on edge and left a coppery taste in the mouth. Entrapment? Not so. Clearly not so.

The journalist -- who, like most media writers today, uses technology rather than shorthand to capture what he's researching -- did not conceal the recorder from the minister.

Nor, to give him his due, did the minister ever claim that he didn't know he was being recorded. In that recording, he invited the journalist to investigate his allegations against a third party. The journalist did. What he found didn't support the minister's claims, and the rest is history.

Newspapers are supposed to write the first draft of history, and Irish papers have been doing that in an extraordinary way in the last six months.

They've been helped by radio and TV. Oh, yes, and Twitter, too. Radio's Sean O'Rourke took the Willie O'Dea story and stuck it to the repentant minister with such relentless clarity that, in the hours following, the issue was not whether Willie would go, but how soon.

FOI. Digital recorder. Leak. The instruments of destruction were varied, but each achieved the same end: the spectacular ending, or at the very least truncation, of a high-flier's career.

Yesterday's exclusive revelation, in this newspaper, emerged from information which came into a journalist's possession. Never mind the motivation of who made that information available.The newspaper must deal with the data, follow through on the facts.

That's what the Herald did yesterday and the result is that Trevor Sargent, today, is no longer a Minister of State.

Caught

That's sad. That's infinitely sad, because Trevor's one of the good guys. Even the Opposition said so last night. But he made an appalling error of judgment and got caught. By a newspaper.

When a report went around that Mark Twain had snuffed it, he remarked that "the rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated".

Rumours of the impending demise of newspapers abound at the moment. But -- as the last few months demonstrate -- we can't do without them. They're so much more than the writers of the first draught of history.


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