Yesterday’s one day public service strike was according to RTE a bonanza for traders in the border town of Newry. RTE news claimed tailbacks of 3 miles on the southern approaches to the town and blamed a sudden influx of southern shoppers mostly on strike for the gridlock. Anyone who read my recent post on the fascination within RTE for the Healy Raes will understand that the state broadcaster has a pavlovian urge to ditch balance when it comes to stories reflecting the government agenda. A year ago, a minor contamination of pork products was hyped by news management, to take the Education demonstration off the front pages.
This year George Lee inferred as he was going out the Montrose door that suits don’t like it when he speaks his mind. Even today Derek Mooney warned his guest Eddie Hobbs not to criticise the government lest those upstairs would give him a carpeting. Newstalk’s Eamon Keane says that he cannot get cabinet ministers on his show because he won’t agree to play by the rules. The evidence is there that the state broadcaster doesn’t want to rock the boat with the government.
But there is a difference between rocking the boat and crossing the line. Reluctance to rock the boat suggests the crew want to maintain control of their craft. Crossing the line on the other hand suggests to me that you stop becoming objective and start becoming a player in the events that you should be covering objectively.
Yesterday morning there was an accident on the A1 south of Newry. That and the ongoing road works (until 2010) at the roundabout for Forkhill caused a tailback quickly. Both incidents are noted on the reliable website aaroadwatch.ie. Strangely RTE attributed the gridlock caused to strikers who were absent from work. While RTE had crews available to cover the floods nationally (as is fitting) the only crew available for coverage of the effects of the strike outside of the Dublin area was the Belfast crew who were sent to Sainsbury’s in Newry who filmed a youth from Dublin pointing to a man off camera claiming he was a striker. The reporter also filmed a parent leading 2 young children around the shopping centre.
Things get even more curiouser and curiouser! There are no media reports of ASDA at Enniskillen or Strabane being overrun with southern shoppers, well no more than usual. Are we to conclude that strikers living close to the M1 are more prone to slip across the border on a day off than those who live in Sligo or Donegal?
Peter McLoone of IMPACT describes RTE’s claims as nonsense. I’ve never met Peter but he’s from Donegal and possible understands ordinary people better than Bryan Dobson because he works for them. I’ve previously posted my views on cross border shopping, it’s called the free market and I see nothing wrong getting value across the border if you cannot get it at home. Mary Harney told us to shop around, why should we be criticised for practising what they preached?
But this is not the real point of this post. Yesterday a spin was put on a small number of people who did go to Newry because their children were off school and a construction was put on it that large numbers of the 235K public service strikers were up in Newry. RTE owe strikers and the government nothing it does owe the country objectivity and the facts. Yesterday they failed the country and spun the spin to Newry rather than ask why cabinet ministers were unavailable to answer hard questions. RTE then has the neck to criticise the referee in the Ireland France match!