Smear, fears and Irish Elections…or the curious case of the latest non-story about Bertie Ahern April 23, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics.
Let me make this very clear. I am not a member of Fianna Fáil, have never voted for them and have no intention of doing so in the future.
But..the current rash of stories regarding Bertie Ahern are symptomatic of a serious problem in contemporary Irish political discourse. The latest non-story? Harry McGee of the Examiner writes under the headline “Ahern’s father quizzed over Garda death” about how Con Ahern was questioned over the murder of Garda Richard Fallon in 1970.
1970. Thirty seven years have passed since the nihilistic murder of Garda Fallon by the tiny Republican paramilitary Saor Éire group, and the questioning of Con Ahern. Con Ahern was in his late 60s at that point and was questioned because he was a strong Republican with friendships with many involved in such activity. He was, as the article put’s it one of the ‘usual suspects’. There is no hint that he personally was involved or knew anything relating to the murder of Garda Fallon. We can disagree over whether he should have been questioned or not, but it happened thirty seven years ago!
Now, if that doesn’t mean that the headline was misleading, I’m not sure what is. But more to the point Bertie Ahern acknowledged that his father was questioned by the Gardai over just this issue in a 1998 biography.
And the contemporary resonance that gives the Examiner license apparently to drag anything up from any point in human history? That the recent round of ‘suitcase’ allegations in the Independent (that Ahern on his famous visit to Manchester brought a suitcase of cash with himself there) originated, so it is said from the brother of Garda Fallon who was the Garda who allegedly mentioned the suitcase.
It’s funny isn’t it? Just as the temperature goes up, both physically and politically, along comes another ‘rumour. Surely no coincidence here.
Well, Ahern has said “there is no truth to claims published”. I’ve read on Politics.ie the idea that he must sue otherwise we must assume that there is something in the allegations. I don’t think so, I really don’t. That logic opens the floodgates to a round of perpetual litigation for every and any Taoiseach, and as we know from Irish politics, what comes around goes around.
I find it telling that the Irish Times coverage of it, unlike the Independent, was tucked away on an inside page, well out of harms way. Sure they put two reporters on it, but it was remarkably arms length in it’s observations. It’s when it’s on the front page, with other articles on pages two, three and four that I’d find it more convincing. And even the coverage in the Independent was interesting in it’s emphasis. Signalling “the start of the Election campaign” there was a sense of punches pulled, as if this is just the sort of knockabout stuff we should all expect in this circumstance, and for the next couple of months.
For those of us who’ve been around long enough to know the slow, steady and deathly dull list of rumours which have swilled back and forth over the years regarding the ubiquity of Fianna Fáil malfeasance this has a gloomy predictability. It’s like, yes, I know they’re centre right opportunists but tell me guys, what are your crowd of centre right opportunist going to do to make things better?
This sort of thing doesn’t answer that question. All it does is make me wonder why it’s not being answered, and why time and energy is being expended on ‘allegations’ and whipping up a sense of self-righteousness on the part of our other centre-right party while at the same time strenuously denying that the ‘allegations’ have anything to do with them.
Whatever our political affiliation, shouldn’t it be better than this? Even a little bit better?