Last Sunday, the number one item on RTEâs flagship news programme, This Week, informed the nation that the McCartney sisters were back in Ireland and would later travel on to Belfast. The next day, another RTE headline informed us that a Belfast fireman had been hit on the elbow with a stone. There are many who would think that these events were of feck all importance but when it comes to reporting on Northern Ireland, RTE should never be underestimated.
Now before I go on let me make it perfectly clear that I am interested in the evolution of events in Northern Ireland. The peace process is vital for everybody on these islands and it should be reported on and analysed in depth. No, what Iâm talking about here is the obsession RTE news has of giving NI events top priority, no matter how trivial, at the expense of news in the Republic and the wider world . Let me give you a few examples.
A few years ago a helicopter crashed in Kerry and the pilot was tragically killed. The incident got second billing on the main evening news with an RTE reporter reporting by phone, as they do from Outer Mongolia. Meanwhile, top billing was given to a funeral in Belfast complete with a full report by an outside broadcasting unit. In February of 2004 there was a terrible tragedy in Dublin city when a bus killed five people and injured several more. This, the worst accident ever involving a CIE bus was introduced as follows on the This Week programme. âWeâll come back to the Dublin bus tragedy, but first to Northern Irelandâ¦â? Again in Dublin, on St Patrickâs Day 2004, there were serious riots, racist attacks, intimidation, drunkenness and public sex by two teenagers in broad daylight. RTE news wasnât interested. In fact, we were informed that the situation in Belfast was much worse. Some teenagers were spotted with six packs and Shane McGowan appeared on stage in a drunken state. There followed a lengthy interview with the Lord Mayor of Belfast on the possible consequences of such an outrageous public act. (Yes, I know what youâre thinking, Shane McGowan on stage drunk? Shane appearing on stage sober would have been much more newsworthy).
Last August Bill and Hillary visited the place. Hillary made sure she gave fulsome praise of how important this little piece of Irish bog was to the future of the world. I quote, and this is not a joke. âPeace needs to be secured in the North to help stop the advancement of global terrorismâ?, and commenting on the importance of restoring the Stormont power-sharing executive she said âIt is a signal event in the unfolding challenge we confront around this world todayâ?
Now of course this is waffle aimed at Hillaryâs career rather than any importance NI may have on world events. After all the vast majority of the 6.6 billion people on earth have never heard of Ireland. But the citizens of NI lapped it up, here was yet another world leader confirming their vital importance in the great scheme of world history. Alas, the Clintons made a major mistake. They left Enniskillen without saying goodbye to a crowd of people that had gathered to hear how important they were. It was reported that the crowd âgroanedâ as the Clintons sped off with one teenager shouting âDonât come back.â?
We are also constantly reminded that the NI peace process is a shining example for all the trouble spots around the globe. Well, putting aside the 800 years it took to get rid of the invader from about two thirds of the country, letâs analyse this claim. For about fifty years after the entity was created the Unionists abused their dominant position. This eventually led to war in 1969, and what a long drawn out goddamned war it was. Thirty years – about the same time it took the Europeans to fight the First World War, take a rest for twenty years, and finish the slaughter in WW11.
And then thereâs the Peace Process, ten years now and counting with no end in sight. (Look carefully at the faces of BBC reporters and newsreaders when the next âhistoricâ summit takes place, yawns of total boredom are barely suppressed) So, in total weâre talking about nine hundred years of this blight on humanity with not a hope of it being resolved before the thousandth anniversary. Some example?
And speaking of the next summit/crisis, the following is how I imagine the ultimate RTE report. âHere is the news. NASA has confirmed that an asteroid will strike earth next week completely vaporising the planet. Weâll have more on that story later, but first to Northern Ireland where a dispute on whether the colour of underwear for the PSNI should be orange or green is threatening to undermine the peace process for the 78th timeâ¦â? In my madness, before retiring to bed I regularly scan the night sky, hoping, just hoping for deliveranceâ¦..