Sunday, February 26, 2017

Viewpoint: Politics over people, a news media obsession

Do you remember Maurice McCabe? writes Brian Byrne.

Yep, the garda sergeant who as a whistleblower has been doing us all some service in recent years, with no great benefit to his own life or career. Indeed, the opposite.

The man who, in his latest Purgatory, apparently was stitched up by means of a child abuse allegation, which triggered a file in the child protection agency Tusla of which he wasn't even made aware. And which, when the nation was informed of it recently, turned out to have a grossly inaccurate accusation inserted, even though the original accusation had already been deemed a non-offence. The man who has worked and lived for several years in a hostile atmosphere simply because he broke the 'blue omertà'. The garda who indirectly rocked the boat of the Fine Gael party a few weeks ago when it turned out that none of the crew knew whether they were using their oars or not. And the captain didn't know where the tiller was.

Ah yes, that Maurice McCabe. You remember him now?

Funny how his situation, and the enormously important implications of both his longer-term activities and the most recent waves raised by revelation, so quickly slipped off the national news lists. In an ironic way, those waves which rocked particularly the captaincy of the Fine Gael boat were the reason for his own sinking like a stone.

The national political blood sport took over. Our news media will always run after the hare of a political party leadership 'crisis' rather than stay the course of chasing more important things. I've been in journalism for more than 40 years. I have some knowledge of how that works. The political game is the easy option. Always. Not just in Ireland, either. People and their needs, unless they become political hotspots, will always run a poor second in editorial news conferences' choice.

So Maurice McCabe — remember him? — was top news for a measurably shorter time than was the subsequent speculation and reaction about his situation's effect on the future of the FG party. Of whether that might precipitate blood-letting in the party, and what that might mean for the succession stakes in a race not yet even officially begun. How that might affect the future of the current Government. A Government which by virtue of its painful formation and fragile position, has been unable to develop or implement any policy of importance since its formation.

There's an irony too that the impotent Government we have now is presiding over general economic improvements for which it can't even take credit, because it was a much different coalition which managed the foundations of the recovery so far.

But that's digression from the point I want to make. Which is our national obsession with politics over people. Or, maybe more accurately, our news media's obsession with the incests of the Irish political system. We're a small country, but with an inordinately large political representative presence and political commentary. Both of which arguably take up too much space in our national conversation. Also, it could be said that too many of our news media and commentary people have been in place for too long, and maybe suffer from the political fascination myopia which means they can't see outside the pseudo-orgasmic writhings within Leinster House.

I was very close enough to that back through the 1980s in my RTE days. I'm glad that I'm not there now, because I'd be another one of those who have been there for too long. Which is another reason that I like doing the Kilcullen Diary, my own news 'child'. Which doesn't generally get involved in national political commentary.

But that's also why, nothing to do with Kilcullen, I'd like you to remember Maurice McCabe. He was news only three weeks ago. And he is people, like us.