The Cynical Reporting of a Politician’s Death

I have deep and sincere sympathy  for the family, friends and colleagues of Deputy Shane McEntee.  To lose a husband, brother, father or friend at this time of year in particular is very hard.

What makes it worse is the way in which it has been reported by the media in Ireland.

Mr. McEntee had other things to deal with apart from alleged adverse social media commentary.  On a personal level his father had died, and a local man had died in an accident and that apparently upset him greatly.  On a professional level he had voted for recent cuts. How much pressure was on him from the FG whip to do so? He was being lobbied by directly by people affected by cuts.    He was concerned with environmental issues like ash die back and frustrated at how slowly the Dept. of Ag. are dealing with it – as am I.  Last summer, a fellow FG TD called his remarks on unemployed youth “moronic.” What other issues were on his mind we do not know. Mental health is a very complex issue, but generally depression and suicide cannot be ascribed to just one thing.  The needless speculation by our established media will not clarify that.

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum – speak no ill of the dead – is a very old maxim that can be taken to extremes, to a point of martyrdom on a media altar.

Brian Lenihan Jnr’s death was used to divert attention from the disastrous decision process on the bailout. Gerry Ryan’s death, now a tabloid staple sensationalist saga, means people are not looking at how grossly overpaid or politically/editorially interconnected our mediocre media caste is.

Mr. McEntee, in a newspaper interview in regards to cutbacks is reported to have said: “You could stay in a top hotel for €700 a week,” “People just have to get on with it”   Fianna Fail then issued a statement calling on Mr. McEntee to “immediately clarify his callous and crass comments.”
If anyone took Deputy McEntee out of context, highlighted his comments, or turbocharged adverse commentary against this individual it was Fianna Fail.

So does anyone call for closure, censorship or greater control of FF or their press office?

No, but far be it from Joe Blog-er to comment or question.

An unnamed (quelle surprise) FG deputy has been quoted in the papers

“Parts of social media give a voice to nutcases who are full of anger and spit out vitriol.

“There is no filter – they give a platform to these people when often it’s just bile.”

It is ironic, or perhaps even hypocritical that the source was unnamed,  after former Taoiseach John Bruton said those who tweet messages to radio or TV shows should not have their views aired unless their names and addresses are given: “In fact they are being delivered under the cowardly cloak of anonymity.”

Now it appears a rather disturbing and heavy handed attempt is being made to associate this reported suicide with social media and cyber bullying. In the wake of a number of recent high-profile teen suicides linked to online abuse, the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said laws existed to punish those behind such harassment.

I think it is crass and callous to associate this death with that of the truly traumatic and tragic deaths of two teenage sisters in Donegal. The two events are utterly incomparable.  I think it is crass and callous the way in which his death was reported, in contrast the restraint shown, for example, by the forum users at http://www.politicalworld.org could be a role model for the press.

But, quite cynically, some politicians, named and unnamed, will always attempt to use tragedy to their advantage. Some will, as we have seen, use this as a means to attack critics and divert criticism.

Mr. McEntee, for what I have no doubt were honorable intentions, ran for public office and was elected.   In accepting public office, one must accept that one’s actions are subject to criticism and comment, and not always in a friendly, nice or reasonable way.  He chose, or perhaps was forced by the party whip system, to vote to support cuts that adversely affected a lot of his constituents and others across the Island, supporting the Party over the people.  Those cuts reduce income from a large amount of people on low incomes to bail out a few who are still in relative terms very, very well off. This creates an angry atmosphere, and his comments did not help.

People are, justifiably, angry with FG and Labour continuing on a road doomed to failure started by FF.  There is also a real sense of dis-empowerment in general and a sense of betrayal by Labour in particular.

Apart from the internet, regular people with real grievances have no way to have their voice heard within the Irish media-political caste system.

In closing, I would just like readers to consider how many suicides could already be attributed to the cutbacks, house foreclosures, job losses and an avoidable depth of recession due to the failings of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour?    With cutbacks in respite care how many people will commit suicide or choose euthanasia so as not to be a burden on their families due to cutbacks?

vvv

Simonj

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12 Responses

  1. Thank you very much for your courageous and realistic commentary. It is certainly time the hypocrisy surrounding the life and death of ‘prominent’ people was exposed.

    Barry

  2. Very reasonable, thoughtful and appropriate summary of this sad event.

  3. Wonderful writing and nail on the head award

  4. It is surly time to question how well citizens are being served by a media that is largely in the pocket of big business and political cronies … Direct action by the people in the form of a boycott campaign of main stream media is the only way to achieve a free and impartial press …

    • Agreed in principle, but would it not be better to encourage ‘non mainstream’ media through the very technologies some people have criticised here. We have a number of good candidates already, including PW. We should make better use of the cadre of people who are interested/active/aware/connected, to ensure what we know or feel is properly and widely reported.

  5. Whatever the real reasons were for this sad death, there seems to have been fear in the political class and their media supporters at the possibility that austerity could burst into their bubble, and take one of their own. The fear was followed by anger and calculated scapegoating of the people who affected by it and who have had the temerity to express their feelings.

  6. […] […]

  7. Shane McEntee was probably the most decent politician in the Dail. He worked on issues that were not of any consequence to his electoral chances. Because he worked on he basis that if an issue came to him, and he figured something needed to be done about it – then he would make up his mind that he was going to be the man that would do something about it.

    He was a workaholic. He was very honest with people. He often told people directly the truth of what needed to be done. And he was not in the business of spin or pr stuntery. Unfortunately, we are now minus exactly the sort of politician that the Dail needs.

    I think the behaviour of Deasy and Byrne was dispicable. It is unfortunate that there were also hardliners out there who decided to ridicule his work. His work was what defined him. And unfortunately in Ireland we don’t have enough people like that. Though Germany is full of people like that. And there are some in Scandinavia and France. And guess what…they own us. Shane McEntee is exactly the sort of person we need to lead us back towards getting our sovereignty back. It seems that there were very few people who produced such comments. But they were directed at a man that never let another human being he met, down in his life without feeling as if he had failed.

    CJH destroyed political life in Ireland. But Bertie Ahern has gone further and destroyed the country, thousands of people, and our independence. McEntee was trying to clean up the mess. Unfortunately people suffering from Ahern’s mess,are not able to control themselves, and are doing more damage.

    This shows us what a mess we are now in, and how hard it is to fix it.

  8. I wish to thank you for a well balanced piece. While I agree with you that the social media is taking too much blame -a measure of restraint is needed by all of us who use it. I would also agree with John Bruton that comments broadcast should have the full name attached. However-your point about the amount of suicides spinning out from this crash is so so true and the mainstream media sickens me with its condescending tone and its abject failure to apologise for its part in this mess.

  9. I have to agree with all you said when we have a mainstream media that is selective in the way it reports items for whatever reason We need the internet to voice our concerns ,our democracy has been manipulated into something that does not fit the name.In democracies politicans are elected to carry out the peoples wishes or at least do what they promised before they were elected.Quite simply this is not happening on numerous occasions they do complete u turns (banks not one cent etc.) their excuses do not wash.Ireland and a lot of other western counteries are living beyond their means but it is the vastly over the top wages and pentions from the public purse that needs seriously tackled first to give credibility to any government. This has to weigh heavily on the concience of an honest politican.

  10. Just to clarify:
    The fellow FG TD who called Dep. McEntee’s remarks on unemployed youth “moronic” was John Deasy

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/0622/1224318456641.html

    Just to note Senator Thomas Byrne’s criticism of McEntee for his ‘crass and callous’ comments disappeared from the FF website on or about December 28th.
    But they are to be found elsewhere on the internet

    http://www.thejournal.ie/senator-mcentee-called-on-to-clarify-callous-comments-on-respite-care-grant-708894-Dec2012/

  11. First class, hopefully some of these thicko politicians will read that.

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