Monday, 26 September 2011
THE arrival of Martin McGuinness into the race for Irish president precipitated an avalanche of media comment about what role he did or did not do in the Provisional IRA.
Since he has shorn himself from the Aran sweaters he favoured in bygone days and now bears the work wear of a senior politician (sensible suit and shoes) he can at least be glad that he is no longer being pursued by the fashion police. It also means that a part-time job as an Art Garfunkel tribute act is now beyond him – look at the pictures from the 80s and you’ll get that reference!
Any complaints from unionist politicians – and the more unstable callers to radio shows - about his past are moot points north of the border. Given they are more than happy to work alongside him in his role as deputy First Minister, it would be churlish to complain about him throwing his hat into the ring for President of what one unionist commentator called a “foreign state”.
But the role of the media in the presidential race has come under close scrutiny. One of the constant, recurring themes on the ‘tinterweb has been that the ‘southern media’ will be much tougher on Mr McGuinness, and will look closely at his PIRA past…
Which begs the question as to what the ‘northern media’ has been doing for the past decade or so? Even journos and hacks have trotted out the line that the ‘southern media’ will be looking closely at his past.
Whether doing that is right or wrong will be subject of many an online rant. However, we are worried, nay very worried, about what that implies for Norn Iron’s press corps, specialist correspondents and generally every reporter in the six counties.
Are they timid? Are they easily bored? Do their editors not give them enough expenses? Have they ever even hacked a phone?!
Or – enter the conspiracy theory – have they been silenced? Have they taken an editorial ‘go softly’ line with certain MLAs? Does this mean they have taken an active stance on the peace process and not stood by and reported?
We’re not concerned at the whys and wherefores, we’re concerned at the implication that the south of Ireland journalists are better than our journalists in the north. C’mon people, the Republic of Ireland may be higher that Norn Iron in the football rankings but surely not in the journalism league tables!