Saturday, December 26, 2009
Bad night for Ireland but an appalling night for Lenihan
I have often been critical of the decisions that Brian Lenihan has taken as Minister for Finance. In the last year I have blogged about how government decisions on NAMA, banking, pay and budgetary cuts have impacted on the country. As line minister Brian Lenihan is responsible for these but he acted at the behest of a collective cabinet. All ministers share the responsibility of their decisions in cabinet. I am implacably opposed to many of the decisions this government has made.
However I’m shocked at how news of the minister’s health has been released by TV3. Surely the channel that learnt just 2 days ago of the minister’s condition should have sat on the news? The minister has said that he’ll meet the press early in the new year. Do I have the right to know about the minister’s serious health concern now? I don’t think so. This is, in my view, an invasion of the minister and his families privacy. Where exactly is the line between the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy? It seems to me that the TV channel has gone too far on this. While RTE reported the matter there was no reportage nor expert opinion nor indeed effective obituary of the minister as TV3 reported. I’m certain that the TV3 report will be the basis of a complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of Ireland on the basis that it infringed the Minister’s right to privacy.
Given the reality of 24 hour electronic media and the right of anyone to use this information as they see fit, it was certain that some sick clown would find the space to level at the minister and already a facebook page has been set up hoping that the minister dies of a tumour. While the TV channel is not directly responsible for the clown’s behaviour, the reality is that the page wouldn’t be there but for the nature of the news report. When TV3 comes looking for a better share of the TV license fee I wonder what the response for the government will be?
John Crown is an eminent Oncologist and advocate for a better health service in this country. I respect him greatly however tonight he did himself or his views any good by allowing himself to be interviewed in relation to the matter. The nature of a 2 minute piece to camera speculating on the possible outcomes for someone who is not his patient is bad taste. My respect for him is less tonight as indeed it is for Michael O’Leary who published ads lampooning Mary O’Rourke (Lenihan’s aunt) at the time of her own husband’s death.
There have to be boundaries in public life and the need for a different news angle so as to attract viewers cannot dictate the norms in relation to an individual’s privacy. I don’t like to attack the media but having seen TV3 tonight it deserves a rap on the knuckles this time. I now fear that tabloid papers will rush in where TV3 has gone. Nobody will come well out of this. Rightly Brian Lenihan will get the sympathy of the Irish people but the media will get a bashing that they haven’t got since the wrongly reported on the death of Liam Lawlor. Bad night for Ireland but an appalling night for the Lenihan’s. I wish him well and hope that his health recovers.