Last Sunday morning I thought I might have stepped into an alternative reality when the 8am version of It Says in the Papers (RTÉ Radio 1) started as follows: “Winter time is here and the country has a new President.” But hold a while there (as George Hook might say), the news bulletin said we had the same president as before! Hmm. By 9am the script had become “newly elected” President.
That news bulletin quoted outgoing and incoming President Higgins saying that Ireland was at a transformative stage and that “the momentum of empathy, compassion, inclusion, and solidarity must be recognised and celebrated”. Some will think that visionary, some might find the “must” ominous.
As the dust settled on the presidential election one thing that bugged me was how, during and after the event, candidates and their supporters frequently stressed the importance of inclusivity (e.g. Minister Regina O’Doherty and Higgins’ communications director Bernard Harbour on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland election special last Saturday morning) and of course it is, but lots of those flying that flag parked their commitment to that concept during the referendum on the Eighth Amendment and continue to hail that repeal as a great sign of a progressive new Ireland.
And yet a whole tranche of Irish people have been excluded by that referendum vote – those unborn children alive and well in their mothers’ womb, where they should be safest. I’d suggest that inclusivity is meaningless unless all human beings are included.
For better or for worse the high vote that candidate Peter Casey received was pretty much the most talked-about aspect of the story in last weekend’s coverage, overshadowing the Higgins victory, e.g. it was the first item for discussion on Saturday with Cormac O Headhra (RTÉ Radio 1), much to the annoyance of journalist Fintan O’Toole. (I’d say he was positively fuming when Miriam O’Callaghan had a high-profile interview with Casey last Monday morning, when guest presenting Today With Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1.)
On that Saturday show there were constant references to his alleged racism, based on his comments about Travellers. I thought those comments were ill judged, and just plain wrong, but it’s funny how similar or perhaps worse comments go unnoticed by those who are usually quick to run to the outrage factory. For example, last Tuesday on The Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk), in a discussion with Edwina Curry about Brexit, the host referred to the British people as “utterly stupid” for voting the way they did. Is this not a form of racism? Where was the outrage and indignation? If this had been said about Travellers, or Unionists in the North I’d suspect there would have been a stink. As with inclusivity double standards abound.
The double standards are clearly on view when it comes to the Tuam Babies controversy. Last week’s Government decision to exhume the remains on the site put the issue back in the headlines. Minister Katherine Zappone was interviewed on Drivetime (RTÉ Radio 1) last Tuesday and while I can appreciate her directness and commitment to finding out the truth, I was also conscious of a huge inconsistency, a monumental moral blindness, in that she is now helping to create a similar scandal for future generations to unearth, perhaps literally, namely the issue of what will happen to the remains of unborn children that will be the victims of the abortion bill she has supported with gusto.
The trouble is she wasn’t, and never is, confronted with this anomaly by her media interviewers, perhaps because they suffer from the same blindness – don’t see or don’t want to see.
Similarly on The Last Word (Today FM) last Friday, Health Minister Simon Harris wasn’t asked about the abortion bill when a wide range of health issues was explored in his interview with presenter Matt Cooper. Even when resource problems in the health service were discussed, the €12 million set aside for abortion ‘services’ wasn’t raised.
Maybe that money would be better spent on people who were actually ill? If the media, and indeed the opposition parties, were doing their job the question would be asked. But instead there is silence. Indeed there was little coverage or discussion of the vote in favour of the abortion bill in the Dáil during last week, which is suspicious.
Keeping things under the radar suits certain agendas.
Pick of the week
Utopia: In Search of the Dream
BBC 4, Monday (night), November 5, 12.30am
Delving into colourful stories of some of the world’s greatest utopian dreamers, including St Thomas More, who coined the term ‘utopia’.
Everybody Loves Raymond
Channel 4, Thursday, November 8, 10am
Debra’s hippy sister shows up unexpectedly and announces that she’s decided to become a nun.
The Girl Who Forgave the Nazis
Channel 4, Thursday (night), November 8, 3.25am
At the 2015 trial of 94-year-old ex-Auschwitz accountant Oskar Groening, one survivor, 81-year-old Eva Kor, publicly forgave and embraced him.