That paragon of reportorial rectitude, the Irish Voice, a New York-based publication, wagged a disapproving finger the Irish Echo last week. Writing in his "Periscope" column, publisher Niall O’Dowd cast his myopic lens over the water’s surface and then proceeded to chastise us, and contributing editor Jack Holland, for, well, uh, we’re not quite sure for what.
Was it because we reported what sources had revealed to us were the general contents of an IRA statement to George Mitchell the previous week, an admission that readers will recall had the remarkably sudden effect of turning UUP leader David Trimble into a cheerleader for the Good Friday peace agreement? Or was it perhaps because, at least according to O’Dowd, such a statement may not exist? Or was it for relying on Holland, whose sources, O’Dowd has long claimed — intemperately and, we must emphasize, dangerously — are within Northern Ireland’s Special Branch?
In logic nearly as tortured as his syntax, O’Dowd wrote in one paragraph that our story, which was co-authored by Holland and Echo Northern Ireland correspondent Anne Cadwallader, had quoted directly from an "alleged" IRA document. In the next, he said the Echo had "quoted only ‘reliable’ sources." So much for clarity.
Unlike the Irish Voice, the Echo subjects its stories and their sources to exacting scrutiny. Information from one source must be corroborated by at least one other. In this case, the contents of the statement were confirmed by two other parties. O’Dowd, it seems, would have his readers believe the heretofore obstructionist Mr. Trimble had experienced an epiphany. Or maybe that he too at long last had succumbed to the blandishments of Gerry Adams. So much for rigorous analysis.
O’Dowd went on to surmise that the statement the IRA would release later for public consumption would not likely say that the war is over. To that we can only respond: Yes, and what’s your point? We remind O’Dowd that it’s a journalist’s job to expose contradictions; it is a propagandist who works to suppress them.
In an apparent effort to further cast doubt on Holland’s credibility, O’Dowd goes on to say the reporter "has a history of interesting connections." Not that the Voice publisher knows the identity, background or affiliation of any of the Echo’s sources, but, still, thanks for noticing, Niall.
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One can only guess what is at the root of O’Dowd’s pique. Could it be frustration? Maybe Sinn Fein would not permit him to run the story. In fairness, though, it must be an affront to whatever journalistic impulses he may possess to be required to filter his publication through fellow apparatchiks on the Falls Road.