Monday, November 22, 2010

RTÉ Complacency, Incompetence Symbolic of the Greater National Malaise

Irish Press ConferenceRTÉ’s stunning and repeated coverage failures for one of the historic days in the history of the state is further evidence of just why we’re in the mess that we’re in.

The Observer hit the bulls-eye in its editorial yesterday. This isn’t just the failure of one Government, but the failure of an entire political culture. The media is part of that culture and, as the national broadcaster, RTÉ has a duty above and beyond all other media outlets to tell the people what’s going on. They failed in that duty.

Instead of having live coverage from outside Government buildings from when the cabinet meeting started yesterday afternoon, the national broadcaster decided instead to show Ireland’s Greatest Talent Show, Reeling in the Years and Fair City.

Aware that they were in danger of being scooped by both the BBC and Sky News, RTÉ managed to cancel Gaybo Laughs Back at half-eight to show the Government press conference live. Or almost live – the RTÉ feed was about a minute behind the British broadcasters. Evidence that RTÉ were really caught on the hop.

And then, the most astonishing decision of all – RTÉ cut from the press conference just as Vincent Browne was getting medieval on An Taoiseach, in order to interview their own correspondent. For no apparent reason.

The Nine O’Clock News did not reflect the momentous events of the day and RTÉ appear to have been quite content to go through the motions with a pre-recorded Week in Politics were the eternally mischievous Vincent Browne not hosting a special edition of his current affairs show. RTÉ appeared plenty interested in spiking Browne’s guns.

This is why the state is so deep in the soup. Because the higher echelons of Irish society – the banks, the broadcasters, the politicians, the legal profession - are all comfortable while the general population is utterly lost in what’s going on and genuinely terrified for the future.

Ireland needs a new politics. This is bigger than a single Government. The civil war politics has run its course and it’s time for new beginnings.

In Ireland, it’s more or less impossible to start a new party from scratch, for lots of reasons. The only hope is that one of the three major parties throws up a Gorbachev, an FW de Klerk or a John Hume.

Men who see the big picture and realise that they have to put a bullet in their own party to destroy their own politics to build a new system, as the old one is dead and stinking. We can only hope there’ll still be an Ireland when he or she rises. Go bhfóire Dia orainn.