The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Dome Of Deceit

You know this already, but let me repeat it. Journalists make a lot of stuff up… wild hunches, tripe really, is packaged as fact, trimmed with self-importance and flung into the insatiable mouth of the news beast - Andrew Marr

Anthony McIntyre • June 26 2003

Today the Irish Voice ran a piece which attacked a number of journalists who have on occasion displayed the temerity to challenge the Sinn Fein version of events. The Irish Voice is best known perhaps for being an echo chamber for the Sinn Fein leadership. It is widely believed that the Sinn Fein leader through either his own column or the pen of Niall O Dowd sends smoke signals indicating where his party is likely to lurch next in its search for respectability and establishment approval. Of those who read the Voice, their number includes readers who wield more than average influence. In today’s piece the Andersonstown News business boss, Mairtin O Muilleoir, was praised for having employed his right to reply to an article by Eamon Lynch in the Irish Echo, in a manner which destroyed Lynch’s logic.

One is forced to wonder if the author of the Voice article had in fact read Lynch at all. The article penned by the latter was withdrawn from the Echo archive in a sordid act of blatant political censorship. It is possible that the Voice writer found it somewhere without much difficulty, perhaps even in the Blanket, but the Voice article gave no indication that this was so. If it was in fact read then the Voice writer has succumbed to the wish being the father to the thought. O Muilleoir’s right of reply barely addressed the original piece by Lynch and could therefore have hardly refuted anything Lynch had to say. O Muilleoir’s piece was an exercise in deceit which becomes all too demonstrable through the merest casual perusal.

People can think what they like about the Irish Voice - I might find Niall O Dowd revealing in his disclosures of Sinn Fein intent but I rarely agree with his broader analytical take on events. But in the paper’s defence, when Gerry Adams used his column in October 2000 for the purposes of growing his nose longer than it already was and launched a spurious attack on the present writer and a co-writer, Niall O Dowd did not hesitate to provide us with a right to reply. This unfortunately is not a practice followed at the Irish Echo under the helm of proprietor Sean Finlay.

The right of reply that Sean Finlay offered O Muilleoir was not in fact used to reply to Eamon Lynch. It was employed to launch an attack on myself. I can hardly complain about being attacked by O Muilleoir - such is the heady stuff of political and polemical discourse in the media. What I can take legitimate issue with is the ridiculous content of the attack. But as the Andersonstown News has a reputation for being ridiculous I can hardly feign surprise at finding it remains faithful to its time honoured tradition of churning out nonsense. But what is puzzling is Sean Finlay’s decision to allow his own paper to reproduce a range of factual inaccuracies and then deny the defamed person the right to reply. It seems he has opted to take a leaf out of O Muilleoir’s book in denying the right to reply (which O Muilleoir is no longer publicly prepared to stand over) in an exercise which reeks of censorial intellectual manipulation.

But where there is power there is also resistance. Because The Blanket firmly believes that structures of dissent and transparency are the lifeblood of democratic thinking and democracy building, our ethos is resolutely anti-censorship. And because the censors cannot close us down they seek to isolate us within a hermetically sealed zone out of which our views cannot make themselves known to a wider public. But with a daily hit average of more than 5000, and steadily approaching the 2 million mark - The Blanket has burst the banks of censorship. And while Sean Finlay and Mairtin O Muilleoir can sit down in a rich man’s club and wield their power to coordinate a strategy of isolation, the internet has become a powerful site of resistance to be utilised by those the rich would rather keep silent. And through it both the strategic deficiencies and duplicity of the powerful are quickly exposed.

So while Sean Finlay may think that, aided by his wealth, he has brought closure to the matter in his own favour and that of O Muilleoir, The Blanket, with absolutely no financial resources but armed with an idealism to which Finlay and O Muilleoir are strangers, provides a forum where a right to reply can be made. Censorship is an open sore on intellectual life and we are intent on picking at it until it bleeds and purges itself of its thought throttling malaise.

Amongst the falsehoods that Sean Finlay is culpable for allowing Mairtin O Muilleoir to peddle are the following:

‘Because of our vigorous support for the peace process, we're being denigrated and attacked by dissident republican Anthony McIntyre and his associates.’

The Andersonstown News is not being critiqued for any such thing. The vast majority of newspapers in Ireland - foremost An Phoblacht/Republican News - support the peace process and I rarely critique them. Supporting the peace process is an entirely legitimate position to take. But the Andersonstown News in its presentation of the peace process views itself as a faithful purveyor of a certain authoritarian line and actively functions as an organ of intimidation and marginalisation on behalf of that line. Where it has sought to suppress, bully and misrepresent I have challenged it.

‘For some time, Mr. McIntyre has been running a one-man campaign against the Andersonstown News. This has included his recent outrageous claim that we're touts … a very dangerous allegation.’

Either I wage a one man campaign, or I have ‘associates’ who assist me as claimed by O Muilleoir. An Andersonstown News editor informed the employer of Newton Emerson, the satirist who edits the Portadown News, that Emerson was updating his site on company time. He subsequently lost his job. Did O Muilleoir's editor not therefore tout? At no time have I alleged that the Andersonstown News were RUC touts. That indeed would be a very dangerous allegation. But it was the Andersonstown News last fall which labelled West Belfast man Charlie Pollock a ‘RUC tout’. The sole evidence presented against Pollock was the word of a faceless and nameless source. As O Muilleoir would say ‘hypocrisy how are ye?’

‘Mr. McIntyre … has used the libel laws against us in the past.’

When? This is a total falsehood that O Muilleoir made up. It is not that he is mistaken - he is simply lying. If not let him sue.

‘Mr. McIntyre is particularly disturbed at the way we carried out our exclusive interview with Freddie Scappaticci, the former republican British Intelligence sources branded Stakeknife.’

Apart from a gross inaccuracy thrown my way, I am not in the slightest disturbed by the interview. Scappaticci should on reflection have every reason to be disturbed. When more than anything else he needed Perry Mason the Andersonstown News sent him Basil Fawlty. For this reason the interview has become a cause celebre for every West Belfast comedian. Rather than being disturbed I have quite enjoyed the squirming over at Teach Basil as they inanely try to describe this impoverished clap-trap as a 'top drawer' piece of journalism. True only in a one drawer world.

‘Mr. McIntyre rushed his fences by declaring Mr. Scappaticci guilty as charged by British Intelligence.’

Where? At no time am I on public record as having stated that Scappaticci was Stakeknife. I have restricted my comments on the matter to stating that Stakeknife exists but have refused to be drawn on his identity.

‘The Andersonstown News was never involved in any picket of Mr. McIntyre's home and deplores such activity.’

One of the editors of the Andersonstown News was involved in a picket on my home. This is common knowledge in the republican community in West Belfast. Some Sinn Fein members opposed to the picket have criticised the particular editor for his role in this affair. Where in the pages of the Andersonstown News was the picket on my home described as deplorable? O Muilleoir, in framing his response in the manner that he did, sought to bamboozle the Echo readership.

‘Like our colleagues in newspapers across this city, our journalists and editors put their lives on the line to tell the news - all the news - which affects the communities they serve. That has angered loyalist paramilitaries - who have made death threats against our staff.’

But it was the Andersonstown News that allowed a letter to be carried in its pages which accused one of those colleagues of being a gatherer of intelligence for loyalist terrorists - arguably putting his life on the line. The maligned journalist successfully sued the Andersonstown News for such reckless behaviour.

So there we go. 'Make it up Marty' has taken to feeding the Echo readership the same diet of guff and bluff that is dished out twice weekly as 'news' to his tabloid's West Belfast readers. One can expect O Muilleoir to attempt to fool the readership of the Echo. Why the papers' owner should seek to do likewise can only be a source of concern to those readers who have relied on the Echo staff to function as a genuine news provider.

On two occasions I have e-mailed Sean Finlay, requesting that I should have the right to reply. He has refused to respond. Can he really claim to be keeping the wider public informed of the full range of issues that are raised by Mairtin O Muilleoir? Or is the truth simply that he is an active player in an attempt to dupe his own readership? On what grounds can he justify his continued refusal? Apparently none, given that he has evaded the right to reply issue like a politician would a truth society meeting. At the end of O Muilleoir's article Finlay insisted on the following: 'The Irish Echo accepts that the Andersonstown News is an independent and professional newspaper which is committed to the highest standards of journalistic practice.' Come on, Mr Finlay - it is beyond even your wealth to invent a sewing machine that would make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Intellectual freedom is essential to human society. Freedom of thought is the only guarantee against an infection of people by mass myths, which, in the hands of treacherous hypocrites and demagogues, can be transformed into bloody dictatorships.
- Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov

Index: Current Articles

27 June 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Dome of Deceit
Anthony McIntyre


Leave Them Be
Tommy McKearney


Fighting the Censors
Ryan McKinney


Pedro Albizu Campos and Irish Republicanism

Aoife Rivera Serrano


Sectarian Stereotypes
Liam O Ruairc


What Price Pretense?

Eoghan O’Suilleabhain


Pobal na h-Eireann Manifesto
Sean Mac Eochaidh


22 June 2003


Censorship at the Irish Echo
Patrick Farrelly and Eamon Lynch


The Pen Mightier Than the Sword
Mick Hall


The House that Who Built?
Anthony McIntyre


Angrytown News Responds

Jimmy Sands


Pedro Albizu Campos

Aoife Rivera Serrano


Ernesto Guevara
Liam O Ruairc


Motion Passed
Na Fianna Éireann




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