Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Adams and Toibin - two cases of the double standards in the Irish media

IT IS sometimes easy to forget that the media not only reports on reality but often sets the national agenda as well. As narratives play out, heroes and villains are created and crucified, and rarely in an impartial fashion.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the recent hammering of the Catholic church over child sex abuse. Rightly, the media has demanded answers at every turn and called for the resignations of those involved in the cover-up. Few people would argue with holding the church to account over its shameful record on child protection, and so here the media has fulfilled its proper function.

But apparently when it comes to Gerry Adams things are different. Despite covering up for a child rapist who later went on to work with youth groups, Adams has been given a free pass by our media. As Ruth Dudley and Kevin Myers pointed out in the last few days, an astonishing level of deference has been shown to Adams for essentially the same failures as the church's.

But why?

Is it simply more satisfying to attack the church? Or is left-wing nationalism more deserving of our sympathy than the archaic structures of Catholicism? Or, in fact, is the media simply afraid to go after a man with past links to the IRA?

Indignation

Whatever the reason, the smugness with which our media light fires under some groups while opening the back door for others is nauseating.

During the infamous events in Listowel, we saw a similarly baffling exercise in double standards. A local priest was heavily criticised for providing a character reference for a man on trial for sexual assault and then shaking his hand after he was convicted. This caused outrage. The priest stepped down.

But as our reporters furiously typed expressions of indignation on their keyboards, did they ever stop to think of Colm Tóibín? Last October, Mr. Tóibín provided a character reference for fellow writer Desmond Hogan, who was found guilty of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy with special needs.

There was negative comment on the matter from Cari, an agency for victims of sexual abuse, but there was none of the media outrage we saw in Listowel. Be it because of his literary achievements or his sexuality, Tóibín, like Adams, more or less escaped scrutiny.

So what does this tell us about our media?

Well, that you should make sure you are on the right side of Mountrose and Liffey House before you go crossing the line of acceptable conduct of course.

Oh, and that it's about as impartial as Ian Paisley refereeing Mary McAleese and Queen Elizabeth II in a bare-knuckle boxing match.

1 comment:

Cian said...

In Adam's case at least, it's far more likely that they do not wish to be seen to slander a man who recently came out as a victim of abuse himself. And a man who is far more likely to sue them for such, if the accusations turn out to be false.

One also must take account of the status of the church as a paragon of morality. When you set yourself up like that, it is not surprising when you are held to a higher standard than that which prevails in the rest of society.