Editorial from Church & State, Autumn 2006 (Number 86)

The Harlot Of D'Olier Street

"The press lords waged their war persistently, but in the end ineptly. When Rothermere actually put in writing a demand to see the composition of the next Conservative Cabinet as a condition of support by his newspapers, he over-stepped the limit… At one of his meetings Baldwin rounded on the press lords in words borrowed from his cousin Rudyard Kipling which still echo across the years: 'What proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages'…" (Robert Blake: The Conservative Party From Peel To Churchill).

A comparable situation exists in Ireland today in the relationship between the Government and the press, but with a difference that make the irresponsibility of the press infinitely greater than it was in England in the crisis of 1931.

Rothermere and Beaverbrook made money by selling vast quantities of newspapers to the same body politic that elected the Government. They made their money and achieved their influence honestly, as these things go. The source of their influence as press barons was transparently obvious. And there was no question of their power owing anything to interference from beyond the body politic of the state. But that is not the case with the Irish Times.

Baldwin and Beaverbrook were players within the same democracy. That democracy proved to be incapable of producing an adequate form of government for itself, and therefore the state was in crisis. The press barons exploited the popular discontent to sell newspapers. But the press barons were no more able than the democracy to produce better government.

The democracy was discontented with the Government. That means it was discontented with itself, because the Government came from nowhere else than from the democracy. But the way to sell newspapers is not to tell the democracy that it is itself entirely responsible for the Government of which it complains. (And if that is not the case, then either the state is not a democracy, or democracy is not what it pretends to be.)

In most Western states newspapers are products of the political life of the state, and they service the political conflicts of the state. The obligatory form of what is called democracy is the conflict of two political parties which present themselves to the electorate. The democracy exercises its only sovereign function by choosing between the two every four or five years.

Where there are more than two parties the abilitity of the electors to choose is diminished. The choice passes from the electors to the elected.

The logic of the system is that there should be a couple of major, well-defined, parties, with one or two minor parties in the offing.

In Russia, after the pulling down of the Soviet system, the electors were given a wide choice of parties, parties were ill-defined, and they did not persist over a series of elections, but came and went with great rapidity. The consequence was that the choice presented to the electorate was illusory, and Russian democracy was therefore a shambles.

In Irish politics, as remade by Britain in 1922, it was intended that a plurality of parties should ensure permanently weak government. But strong government emerged despite Proportional Representation. There was strong authoritarian government by the Treaty Party to begin with. And this was followed by strong democratic government by Fianna Fail.

The party structure of the state has been unbalanced since 1933. Political life has been dominated by the anti-Treaty party, which was defeated in the 'Civil War' in 1923.

Resentment of the 'Treaty', after the danger of invasion had passed, led to the rapid growth of the anti-Treatyites as a political party, and to the decline of the Treatyites.

But the Treaty itself was not wholly responsible for the unbalanced party structure of the state since the early 1930s.

The Treatyites had to do what they did in 1922 in order to ward off re-conquest by Britain. But they did not have to do what they did between 1927 and 1932.

Instead of facilitating the entry of the anti-Treatyites into the political life of the Free State, the Treatyite Government tried to prevent it by use of the Treaty Oath, not only for sitting in the Dail, but for contesting elections.

A change of government was possible in 1927. It would have been a Coalition led by Fianna Fail. If that had happened, a balanced two-party system would probably have developed.

The opportunity was lost by one vote. The notorious Jinks was kept away from the Dail by an Irish Times journalist (who became Editor). As a result, the Treatyite party was given a further five years, during which it did itself irreparable damage, and never won another election.

It governed from 1927 to 1932 as if the British Government was breathing down its neck with the British Army poised to strike if it deviated from the Treaty by a harsbreath. That had been the case in 1922, and the electorate knew it and made allowance for it. And the electorate also knew that it was no longer the case in 1927 and it punished the excessive Treatyite zeal of the Government.

And then, when the Treatyite party lost the elections of 1932 and 1933, it went Fascist and remained Fascist until the Second World War.

The party structure of the state has remained basically unchanged since the early thirties. It might be described as one whole party, one half-party, and one quarter-party.

The complete party has been in office for by far the greater part of the 74 yeras since 1932, with the half and quarter parties occasionally getting together with Independents to provide it with a few years of relief.

A party-political democracy, which is the only kind now recognised as authentic, needs party newspapers for its proper functioning. And the two major parties had party newspapers until a generation ago, when the Fianna Fail newspaper was put out of business. This left the field to the Irish Independent and the Irish Times. The Independent is the Fine Gael newspaper, and is opposed to Fianna Fail on the normal partisan basis of party politics in a democracy.

The Irish Times is opposed to Fianna Fail on altogether different grounds. It does not represent a party capable of taking office as the Government of the state. Its opposition to Fianna Fail is not an expression of party-politics within the state. It is more in the nature of hostility to the state—or to the ethos and sense of purpose which took the state from under the British wing and enabled it to act independently.

The Independent made its money in the market place in which it also conducted its politics. It may recently have become the plaything of Sir Anthony O'Reilly, the Heinz multi-millionaire, but it remains discernibly what it always was—allowing for the fact that the rather strained devoutness that characterised it during the generations when piety was the fashion has been replaced by a rather doctrinaire expression of the licentiousness which is now the fashion. And Sir Anthony is a recognisable product of the society which his paper serves—even in the inferiority complex of the middle class boy who has become very wealthy and feels the need of an English knighthood to lend him distinction.

The Irish Times is something else. Its ownership is mysterious—or it was mysterious until it chose to attack the Aubane Historical Society and Aubane responded by discovering how it functioned. And its financing was mysterious and remains so.

The Irish Times was the paper of the Protestant Ascendancy in its last phase. It remained committed against Irish national development to the bitter end. When it failed o ward off independence, its readership base shrunk away as many of the Anglo-Irish chose not to live outside the British state and returned home and many of those who remained became Irish in a more than a nominal sense and lost the Ascendancy viewpoint on things.

But the Irish Times survived the half-century after independence, with a minuscule readership, while retaining the staff and the appearance of a major paper. Its circulation during that half-century was in the region of 35,000. But it kept going without visible means of support, and it was financed to take advantage of the political disorientation that set in after the upheavals of the Arms Trials.

Aubane (where the Irish Times was never seen until the past few years) discovered that it was supposedly owned by an Educational Trust, but that the Chairman of the Trust, a returned British Army officer, Major MacDowell, had a golden share which enabled him to outvote all the others combined. And it discovered from the British State archives that, in the crisis of 1969, Major MacDowell discussed with Whitehall how the paper should be conducted. There is no evidence that it ever discussed this with the Irish Government.

Then John Martin undertook some real investigative journalism for the Irish Political Review (very different from the 'investigative journalism' of leaks and handouts which is the usual thing) and found that, under a nominal Editor, the paper is conducted under the active supervision of a Directory, and that the Directors are bound to secrecy about the affairs of the paper by an Oath which they—along with the Editor—take annually.

It has long been evident that the paper was conducted on behalf of an interest which was not part of the political life through which the government of the state was conducted. And this is the mechanism by which it was done.

An internally-based paper, grown out of the body politic, which stood beyond the party-politics of the state and subjected it to impartial criticism, would be one thing. But that is not what the Irish Times is. It is the representative of an outside interest which manipulates internal discontents for the purpose of eroding the ethos of the state.

Around 1970 it began to harness to its purpose the disconent of 'revolutionary socialists' of various kinds who, left to their own devices, would have achieved nothing in the way of a revolution, but who displayed a certain flair in destructive journalism against the Irish state, from a platform that was laid on for them. And it finds it easy to enlist the existential discontent of the Labour Party—the perpetual quarter-party of the state—for the view that its frustrated condition is due to something sinister and Machiavellian in the conduct of Fianna Fail.

This magazine was launched to oppose the undue influence of a foreign power in Irish affairs. The influence of Rome has declined, only to be replaced by another, which claims a comparable exemption from the rules binding on others.

The Irish Times campaigns for transparency but shields itself in obscurity. It campaigns against corruption but conceals the sources of its financing. It demands that the inquisatorial law of the Tribunals should be rigorously applied to others, but expresses outrage at the prospect of it being applied against itself. And it has recently begun to boast that its purpose is to destabilise Governments.

Isn't it about that somebody in authority said to it what Baldwin said to Beaverbrook?

After a misconceived speculation (in GPA of which he was a Board member), Garret FitzGerald had over £200,000 written off by Allied Irish Bank, under his protege and fellow Fine Gaeler, Peter Sutherland—but nothing much was made of that.

The following are Directors and Governors of the Irish Times. Do they support the irresponsible attempt of their paper to overthrow the elected Taoiseach?

A) Non Executive Directors and non "Trust" Members

1) Brian Patterson (Chairman)
- Director of Waterford Wedgwood Plc and of the Ogilvy Group
- Chairman of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority
- Governor of the board of the National College of Ireland
- Trustee of The Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation
- Former Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council

2) Alex Burns
- Former Senior Partner in KPMG Accountancy firm (formerly Stokes Kennedy Crowley)
- Former Chief Executive of The National Development Corporation Limited
- Former Director of Norwich Insurance and Wessel Industries

3) Gregory Sparks
- Partner in Farrell Grant Sparks Accountancy Firm. Farrell Grant Sparks advised the Dublin Printing Group of Unions on the restructuring process in The Irish Times Ltd.
- Former Programme Manager to Dick Spring during his period as Tanaiste

4) John Fanning
- Executive Chairman of McConnells Advertising (The largest Irish owned advertising agency.
- Director of the National Theatre (the Abbey) from 1993 to 2001.

B) Irish Times Ltd Directors who are also Governors of The Irish Times Trust Ltd.

1) David McConnell
- Chairman of The Irish Times Trust Ltd since December 2001.
- Professor of Genetics in Trinity College Dublin
- Member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation and the Royal Irish Academy
- Former president of the Zoological Society of Ireland
- Former Chairman of the Adelaide Hospital and Fota Wildlife Park

2) Gerard Burns
- Former Northern Ireland Ombudsman

3) Dervilla Donnelly
- Emeritus Professor of organic chemistry at University College Dublin
- Chairwoman of the Government Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction (since March 2000) and of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies

C) Executive Directors

Geraldine Kennedy (Editor)
Maeve Donovan (Managing Director)
Michael Austen (Deputy Managing Director)
Paul O’ Neill (Financial Director (?))
Liam Kavanagh (Company Secretary)
Eoin McVey (Managing Editor)

Governors of The Irish Times Trust Ltd who are not Irish Times Ltd Directors

The other governors are Ruth Barrington, trade unionist David Begg, former ambassador Noel Dorr, David Went the financier, Judith Woodworth and Esther McKee.

(Three of the above are very well known. - Noel Dorr was a very well known Irish diplomat. I think he was ambassador to the UN.
- David Begg was President of the ICTU and Chief Executive of Concern. He was also the head of the Communication Workers Union during the Telecom Eireann Privatisation.
- David Went is a former Chief Executive of the Ulster Bank. Possibly he is the current Chief Executive of Irish Life and Permanent TSB.)

Contents of Number 86

The Harlot Of D'Olier Street.

The Pope And Benjamin Kidd.
Brendan Clifford

Pope's January 2006 Remarks On Islam.
Wilson John Haire (Report)

A Frenchman Looks At Ireland.
Jack Lane

Mrs Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Non-Sectarian.
Joe Keenan

Vox Pat: (Fianna Fáil & Henry VIII; Tip-Toe Through The Pews; Franciscans To Sever 700 Year Link With Town; Jesuits; Limerick Sale; Of Things Material; Ennis Land Sale)
Pat Maloney

The Crown Campaign Against Protestant Neutrality In Cork During The Irish War Of Independence.
Eamon Dyas

Ireland In 1921: Dr. Fitzpatrick Puts Mr. Bury's Foot In It.

Protestant Refugees: Semantics Or Accuracy?
Keenan/Kennedy Letters In Irish Independent

Robin Bury's Faulty Witness, Part One of a series on the Irish Distress Fund.
Seán McGouran

The Non-Conformist Conscience Rides Again.
Stephen Richards

About Behaving Normally In Abnormal Circumstances
Desmond Fennell

Conor Lynch (Report)

Morality And Good Murder.

Ahmadinejad Points The Finger At UN System.
David Morrison

Ahmadinejad On Palestine.

The Issue Is Not Whether Hamas Recognises Israel.
Henry Siegmore (Report)

Who Are The Real Fascists In The Middle East.
Nick Folley (Report)

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