Friends in high places pushed to one side

Friends in high places pushed to one side Emily Maitlis

So, last week it was the second anniversary of the referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment, but I didn’t notice much about it in the media. Maybe we’re ashamed of what we did and want to pretend it didn’t happen?

Anyway, some were in triumphalist mode. On the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk FM) last Thursday, we heard of a new documentary film about how the referendum was ‘won’. Kenny interviewed the film-maker Anna Rodgers and Orla O’Connor of the National Women’s Council.

A discussion between those on both sides, two years on, would have been welcome, but that was not on the agenda. In exploring the question of how the referendum was won, the two women never mentioned the support they had from pals in the media…still wanting to pretend the media was impartial?

Death toll

One question not asked (there or anywhere) was about the number of unborn children who died as a result of the ‘win’ – what current affairs presenter is going to ask about the death toll?

Kenny did point out on several occasions that the film was “a one-sided account”, that there was “a lot of passion” and some “very public women” on the other side of the debate. What a pity we didn’t get to hear from one of them.

The issue of media bias blew up across the water last week. On Newsnight (BBC2, Tuesday), presenter Emily Maitlis led with an incredibly biased piece to camera slating Dominic Cummings, his lockdown travels and his PM’s reaction. Whether she was right or wrong is beside the point – she was pushing her own opinion or what she thought was public opinion.

Eventually the BBC News team said it “did not meet our standards of due impartiality”, which of course led to a trip to the outrage factory for those who don’t mind media bias as long as it favours their side of an argument.

The issue was raised on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk FM, Thursday). Presenter Ivan Yates said Maitlis was “telling it like it is” – but no, she was telling it like she thought it was. Yates by his own admission does introductory rants every weekday. He spoke to UK media guru Roy Greenslade, who was informative and moderate. He found the Maitlis contribution to be “extraordinarily partisan” but, according to polls, in line with the public mood, which of course was changeable.

It might seem like a big jump to go from these shows to Messiah (EWTN, last Saturday), but subtitled ‘Triumph: Enemies Under Your Feet’ here also was a taste of triumphalism, rarely an attractive look, but I suppose it depends on tone and context – surely we’ll celebrate the triumph of good over evil for example?  Triumphant but not triumphalist?

This was a relatively big budget documentary series, with a large dollop of Church history – that used to be a big thing in Catholic education but it’s rarely heard about these days, leaving the field open to distortions, misunderstandings, prejudice and stereotyping.

The most intriguing aspect for me was the exploration of the early days of the Church, when the lines were somewhat blurred between Jews and Christians, when there were those who worshipped as Christians but kept to Jewish rituals, when there were Gentile “God-fearers” who aligned informally with Judaism.


Eventually, and especially after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the two groups drifted further apart, and with expulsions from the synagogues the new Christians moved to spread the Gospel on the streets.

I found the continuity a bit disjointed – starting with the victory of Constantine and the acceptance of Christianity in the Roman Empire then returning, appropriately for last weekend, to Pentecost and the birth of the Church, then through the early persecutions and back up to Constantine again.

I liked that they used plenty of art works to illustrate the events, though some of the depictions of martyrdom were quite gruesome (as I’m sure the martyrdoms were!). Watching this would give some perspective on the sufferings of Christian today – worldwide some of the persecutions are similar but here at home we just have to put up with closed churches and a level of marginalisation.

Finally, I was impressed by the multi-lingual Eurovision Mass for Pentecost last Sunday on RTÉ1 – it was graceful, reverential and enhanced by commentary, translation and a Prayer of the Faithful from our busy editor, Michael Kelly.


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