Category: Archive

Inside File Dueling journalists in D.C.?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Not only the venerable Harold Evans, but a veritable posse of worthy and notable scribes and experts on the whatever estate journalism ranks as these days is expected to ride into Washington, D.C., should the Prentice Brothers-Sean McPhilemy dustup turn into a courtroom showdown next month.

It all depends on the judge of course. McPhilemy’s legal team wants the $100 million libel lawsuit against their man, his TV production company and publishers Roberts Rinehart cast so far into the legal nether regions that it won’t even qualify for Judge Judy.

The Prentice boys are challenging this motion, undoubtedly conscious of the fact that the money they have spent on the case so far — $2 million, by some estimates — would be well and truly wasted if the case were simply to flounder on some obscure American technicality like, say, freedom of speech. One of the names floating around as a potential expert witness is journalist and author Tim Pat Coogan. If Tim Pat gets into the box, the jury would be in for quite a history lesson. We’ll all know in a few days.

Cruising the globe

Conor Cruise O’Brien covers the course of human history and a good chunk of the globe in his latest tome, "Memoir, My Life and Themes." Needless to say, much of the book tends to focus heavily on the Cruiser himself — fair enough, it is a memoir — as evidenced by these consecutive paragraphs: "I learned later that, after the meeting, Anderson said to Bradshaw that I sounded as if I might be difficult to deal with. Bradshaw replied that if I weren’t a bit difficult to deal with I couldn’t be the kind of person that they needed. . . . Donald Trelford came to see me in Dublin and had lunch with me. He told me he would be happy to accept me as editor-in-chief, and to work with me. He regarded his role in journalism as that of a craftsman. Questions of high policy, as in the taking of editorial lines, he was happy to leave to someone else." That someone else was, of course, the one and only "me."

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The Cruiser clearly learned little about the dulling effect of repetition in a sentence during his stint as editor-in-chief of the influential British Sunday newspaper The Observer. Still, his views on the future of Ireland, packed into the end of the book, make for an interesting read. Cruiser, a friend of unionists as much as a friend of the union, expounds on his recent argument — made public in an exchange of letters with UK Unionist leader Bob McCartney — that Northern unionists might in fact have more to gain in the long run from a union with the Republic than one with a Britain that is growing increasingly weary of its Ulster subjects.

"The power of the Catholic Church," he writes, "real in the early days of the threat to the Union — has now ebbed into near insignificance. The Catholic Church would have no influence whatever over those areas of a united Ireland containing a Protestant majority."

He goes on to argue that in a united Ireland, northern Protestants would constitute a powerful political bloc with Southern political parties tripping over themselves to win their support under a continued system of proportional representation.

"Above all — as I have argued above — a united Ireland would, in such circumstances, entail the permanent eclipse of the Provisional IRA," Cruise O’Brien concludes.

Cruiser takes a relatively benign view of the Rev. Ian Paisley: "Dr. Paisley’s public oratory is still rather on the exuberant side, but in private political discussions he is invariably calm and shrewd. . . . I would rather have Ian Paisley in my corner than I would David Trimble."

Sorry once, sorry twice . . .

Fr. Sean McManus and Richard Nixon have something in common. It goes something like this: What did he know and when did he know it? The Echo recently reported an exchange involving McManus and WGMS Radio in Washington, D.C., stemming from a bad St. Patrick’s Day joke aired by a station presenter. The joke was: "What’s three miles long and has an IQ of 40? The New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade."

McManus, always on the alert for grave errors in matters Irish, was on to the popular classical music station faster than you could say "allegro." An apology was duly broadcast. However, Washington Post radio columnist Frank Ahrens subsequently wrote that McManus had released a press release demanding an apology after finding out from the station that such an apology was already in the works.

"McManus issued a press release, demanding the apology he already knew was coming," Ahrens wrote.

Not so, responded McManus in a letter to Ahrens. McManus said that his press release had gone out by the time he spoke to someone at WGMS who could absolutely guarantee such an apology. The Post then printed a correction, accepting the McManus version of a sequence of events that is unlikely to knock the earth out of orbit. Still, who fired first is always a key question, even when the ammo is mere words.

Tuskar silence

The results of a new Irish government investigation into the crash of the Aer Lingus plane St. Phelim off the County Wexford coast 32 years ago are still awaited. A report was due out at the beginning of the year and is still expected any day. The delay could mean anything. It could mean something sensational in the works or nothing at all.

The Irish investigative magazine Phoenix has suggested the latter and in a recent issue stated that the "investigation" was more akin to a review of existing evidence and that little new light would be shed on the questions surrounding the crash of the Vickers Viscount aircraft near the Tuskar Rock lighthouse. More than 60 people died in the crash and some relatives maintain that the plane was hit by either a British missile or target drone.

One curious development was a recent report in the London Independent newspaper in which British military sources suggested that Irish efforts to firm up the missile/drone theory are part of an IRA-inspired anti-British campaign. Now steady on, chaps! Phoenix suggested this was a British preemptive strike because, while the new Irish investigation — ordered by Minister Mary O’Rourke — would not blame the crash on a British military cockup, neither would it completely shoot down the missile/drone explanation for the St. Phelim tragedy.

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