Saturday, October 3, 2009

A news-worthy détente?

Mary Fitzgerald, last Thursday, put up a neat piece in the Irish Times:
Eurosceptic line of Irish editions of UK papers more muted this time around
That must be a harbinger of numerous academic studies. Fitzgerald looked back:
In the postmortems that followed last year’s No vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, the Government and several Yes campaigners were quick to seize on what they considered to be the nefarious role played by Irish editions of British newspapers noted for their Eurosceptic editorial slant.

According to some, it was not only the Sun “wot won” it for the No side, but its sister titles in Rupert Murdoch’s News International stable. These included the Sunday Times and News of the World, with a little help from the Irish edition of the Daily Mail.
Certainly the hysteria this time round has been moderated, even though the essential postures have not changed. Witness Gerald Scarfe for last week's Sunday Times, Irish edition (above, left)

The rest of Fitzgerald's piece identifies Declan Ganley's gross misrepresentation of the position of the Financial Times and, to a lesser extent, of the implicit stance of Murdoch's Wall Street Journal. Cool and clear, the article is well worth the trip, and rightly is an Editor's Choice for the week.

What the journos had spotted was strident English-based Europhobia was not going to work this iteration. The electorate were in a chastened, more receptive mood. Opposition parties (excepting Sinn Féin) were actively, even aggressively on board, while last outing they had been prepared to leave the running to a labouring Fianna Fáil (and didn't Bertie and Co. gripe about that). The "No" campaign, and not just Ganley, went stratospheric: when some jokester used Photoshop to parody Cóir's efforts (see right), many could hardly tell the difference.

Trust Nigel Farage and his UKIPpers to make matters worse. Using funds (intended to support political parties) provided by the European Parliament to produce and distribute leaflets to every Irish home was definitely not a good idea. Nor was it diplomatic to deploy an image of a turkey (left): the memory of Dustin's Eurovision performance still rankles. UKIP MEPs were lucky to be called nothing worse than "racists".

Ireland is a mature nation, and tolerates a great deal of outside "advice". Ireland is also less than three human generations of age, so 1922 and all that is still a sore topic. Anglo-Irish relations are going to be long troubled (at least from the Irish point-of-view) by the "previous", all the way back to 1169. A Thatcher-admiring ex- City broker, turned MEP for South-East England, was bound to incense (Farage was lucky nobody spotted that Strongbow was also a Kentish Man). Farage was so successful that the dung fell alike on Declan Ganley. Ganley (who was a late-comer this time) found himself summarily discounted, unfairly, as another "English" interloper.

Now that the argy-bargy ought to be over, those same UK papers will be turning their "minds" to the Conservative Conference. It will be interesting to see what their Irish editions say about Cameron's predicament, now the Referendum result has dished his previous position. Sphere: Related Content

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