The late British press mogul Lord Northcliffe once stated that “news is what someone else doesn’t want you to know; everything else is advertising.”
Over the past year the British government and journalists have been crafting advertising about Ireland and peddling it as news.
For example, just a year ago British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament and the world that the British army murders of 14 people on Bloody Sunday in 1972 was “unjustifiable and indefensible.”
This would have been news if it was a conclusion uttered by Prime Minister Heath 40 years ago. But in June, 2010 the British spin masters took the conclusions of the Saville Report ie. the lemons, and made lemonade.
This act of contrition by the British leader was not news but advertising and was hyped as British democracy at work, British honesty, generosity etc.
Cameron did not declare that the Widgery Report was a tissue of lies, nor did he say that those responsible for the killings would be prosecuted. That would have been news!
There is no one quite as successful at promoting themselves in America as the English. But more than self-promotion is at stake. Their corruption of law, democracy, justice and freedom in the northern six counties of Ireland has provided British leaders with plenty of lemons that needed to be turned into lemonade or, better still, obscured from the view of ordinary Americans.
It was show time for the queen’s first ever visit to Ireland and Britannia still rules the media, if not the waves. They were successful in obscuring a number of stories which the true colors of her majesty’s government.
London’s goal for the queen’s visit was simple enough. The palace and British Information Service would employ skills developed over decades and use a hierarchy of favored journalists to promote the royal pageantry to distract any media focus on the conflict.
The media themes were predictable. The Easter Rebellion, for example, is invariably denigrated. Since this was the 95th anniversary of the Easter Proclamation, more bile than usual was needed. The usual suspects engaged their poison pens.
A writer in the Sunday Times penned the observation that the 1916 execution of the Rising leaders “…fanned the flames of a faltering cause…the Irish people neither wanted, deserved or were entitled to their independence.”
A columnist in the Irish Independent wrote of a British general who degraded Countess Markieciez “for telling a lot of silly boys of death, glory and dying for your country.”
Obviously, the general would have preferred Irish men answered the call of the British army recruiting sergeant and die for the King of England.
Another writer, also with the Independent, would have the history of British murder and mayhem airbrushed out of Irish history gushing “being so near to England is a good place to be; it outweighs any misfortune past present or future.”
Debasing the Irish people and views, or their government, is vital. A report in the Belfast Telegraph commenting on the invitation to the queen by Irish president Mary McAleese stated “there was no blacker mark; no greater sin of the Irish Republic than to have not invited the queen before now.”
A columnist in the Sunday Independent chirped that the visit by the queen “restored our self-confidence.”
It is laughable what powers are attributed to the 85-year-old monarch.
In anticipation of questions about the conflict from victims the Sunday Independent writer warned that “..friends and equals don’t need to demand apologies.”
As if anyone in the British government thought Ireland as a friend or equal.
A leading Irish Times columnist claimed the Irish people’s manic swings between cringing inferiority and hysterical self-assertion toward England would change with the queen’s visit. Again. the magic of royalty will cure the Irish of their faults and failings.
Another technique was journalists reporting on the queen’s movements with superlatives. A Guardian report concluded that Elizabeth’s first visit to Ireland “would sweep away the cobwebs of history” while the Irish Times columnist asserted that the queen cured the Irish of their Anglophobia. The Boston Globe anointed her majesty’s silent visit to the Garden of Remembrance an “act of reconciliation” and “a victory lap.” A victory it was but not, alas, for the Irish.
Would it surprise you to know that up to and during the queen’s visit in Ireland there were other matters the British would sooner have you forget? While the make nice with the Irish “advertising” dominated much of the media, real news was given little play or ignored altogether.
Let me cite suggest some of the issues which Royal Roadshow Ltd intended to obscure.
* Dublin-Monaghan bombing, Ireland’s equivalent of 9/11. Every British government has refused to release information about the bombers and their supporters, most of whom were in the British army or paid informers of MI5. The queen arrived on the 38th anniversary of the no-warning bombing massacre which killed 34 shoppers.
* Northern Ireland Office releases a government report which claimed there was no police collusion with loyalist thugs in the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson. The British specifically refuse to use collusion definition of Judge Cory, which was to include acts of omission by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This was released during the queen’s visit.
* 30th anniversary of the 1981 HUNGER STRIKES, the largest non-violent prison protest in the world. The queen arrives shortly after the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, an elected member of parliament who died on May 5th of that year and was the first of 10 prisoners to do so.
* The British army acknowledges the wrongful death of Majella O’Hare, a 12-year-old old shot twice in the back. There will be no prosecution of her Parachute Regiment killer. This report was released during the queen’s visit.
* A U.S. attorney, acting on behalf of her majesty’s government, subpoenas from Irish archives of Boston College only oral histories provided by IRA participants, not loyalists. The story broke while the queen was waving to adoring Irish crowds.
* Gerry McGeough, former candidate for the Northern Ireland Assembly and former IRA member eligible for Belfast Agreement amnesty provisions, is imprisoned despite worldwide protests. He was jailed before the queen arrived.
* British failures addressing justice provisions of Belfast and St. Andrews agreements highlighted with Ballymurphy, McGurk Bar and Reavey Brothers killings, and the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane. They are all but ignored. Also, the refusal to allow use of Irish in courts in the North. Queen responds in visit with Gaelic greeting to Irish Dáil, and gets high marks for hypocrisy.
* Report released on Bombardier, large Belfast employer, and its 83 percent Protestant to 17 percent Catholic workforce. The report is a profile revealing discrimination. It was released in January just as London was advertising the announcement of the queen’s Irish visit.
Let us not forget the added bonus to the timing of the queen’s visit. She held the Irish headlines hostage for four days prior to President Obama’s Ireland drop-in, this on his way to a nicely timed address to parliament at Westminster. Give credit where credit is due. Windsor Productions cleaned the clock of the Irish and American governments from the public relations and propaganda standpoint.
It is now a year since Prime Minister Cameron acknowledged the truth of Bloody Sunday. Some thought the new government might make a clean break with the past, but the events of the past 12 months prove differently.
Royal snow jobs are still the rule. In a trip to Belfast this month, the prime minister re-affirmed that there would be no more public inquiries like Saville, and the 2005 Public Inquiries Act would prevail.
A Guardian report pointed out that the act permits a British minister to cancel the terms of reference to an inquiry, cancel the funding, or the entire inquiry, ban the publication of any evidence, and restrict media attendance. Truly an English search for truth!
British historian Paul Johnson once remarked in Forbes magazine that “..leaders who aspire to greatness have two qualities: a gift for listening and the imperative for telling the truth.”
His support of the Public Inquires Act is proof enough of his little concern for truth. Cameron, prior to becoming prime minister, was obviously not listening when British-appointed Bishop Robin Eames stated, in the 2009 Report of the Consultative Group on the Past ( more advertising) “..how can you agree on how to remember the past when the government is not talking.”
Cameron may have failed Johnson’s definition of a great leader, but he certainly fits the mold of so many past British leaders afraid to face the truth of their violent corruption of law and democracy so as to support minority rule in Ireland.
Michael Cummings is a member of the National Board of the Iriush American Unity Conference.