Thursday, June 18, 2015

Challenging the propaganda machines

The expression on her face must have hidden how she really felt but, watching it, it was hard not to cringe.

Here was a national newspaper columnist, sitting in on a late night discussion programme All of a sudden, the presenter introduced the subject of the financial wheelings and dealings of the main shareholder in her group of newspapers.

There were four people on the panel, but it was impossible not to focus on her, not to hone in on her facial expressions and every word.

To her credit, she did not look as though she was about to die of embarrassment as she listened earnestly to the comments of the other three guests. Well  used to appearing on TV panel shows, she survived the ordeal with good grace and seemed relatively unscathed.

But it was impossible not to wonder how she must have been feeling inside.

Could she really give her full, honest opinion when her boss has been known to take legal actions against quite a number of journalists?

Was it better just to stare meekly at the floor as each of her colleagues on the panel made some pretty unflattering comments about the power her boss wields in Irish society?

A man with so much power that he almost gagged anyone in the country from reporting on the goings-on in the national parliament throughout the course of the previous weekend.

Even the State TV channel had been gagged.

The question of media ownership in Ireland, or any democracy for that matter, never seemed so pertinent.

And, ironically, one of the main news outlets to expose her proprietor’s misdeeds has a track record of political interference and phone-tapping on the other side of the Irish Sea.

How truthful is the news we receive on our TV screens or daily newspapers when you delve into the interests of those who control the media?

Could the journalist in question really write the truth about her boss when she knows that others have lost their jobs or been quietly moved aside for doing so?

If the Irish Water protests over the past year have taught us anything, it’s that social media can now expose issues which have been either ignored or distorted by the mainstream media.

Why is it that a dozen protesters sitting in front of a Minister’s car can be splashed as an  ‘Attack on Democracy’ across an entire front page?

While, weeks later, when the same newspaper’s major shareholder gags the national parliament the story is buried inside on page 22?

Funny, isn't it, that the man who controls the country's biggest paper also has a financial interest in the installation of water meters? Or is that just a wild coincidence?

When mostly peaceful protesters who are sick of austerity are labelled as the "sinister fringe", people lose trust in the media.

When they know that the main shareholder in the biggest newspaper group is making money from Irish Water, they have a right to question the motivation setting the news agenda.

Over the past eight or nine months, though, people have learned more about Irish Water through Twitter and Facebook than on the main evening news.

When news sources are giving them completely different versions of the same event, they have a right to question what’s going on.

But when an outstanding TD makes some hugely important comments in the national parliament, and virtually nobody has the courage to report what she said, you have to question how democratic the country really is.

An awful lot of people are well aware at this stage that Irish Water is a scam, set up to take money from as many people as possible to pay for the sins of the few.

But you’d never think that if you only relied on RTE or the Sunday Independent for your news.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Residents 1, Irish Water 0

The residents of a housing estate on the western fringes of Galway City secured a small but significant moral victory this week when they forced workmen to abandon plans to install contentious water meters in their estate.

After 27 of the 30 householders in the Garrai Dhonnail estate signed a petition to oppose the installation of Irish Water meters, Gardai were called and a two hour stand-off ensued.
The workmen from Murphy’s, acting on behalf of Irish Water, eventually agreed to take down barricades they had placed across stop cocks in the estate and to leave the estate without installing any meters.

Resisting the meters this week

Residents were delighted at the result of what they described as a “peaceful community effort” and have urged those living in other estates in Knocknacarra to follow their lead.

A friend of mine who lives in the estate said the protest was an excellent example of a community standing together – the vast majority of householders had expressed opposition to Irish Water when the first bills began to arrive in recent weeks.

He said there was no trouble during the stand-off and the residents who staged a protest were representing the views of the vast majority of Garrai Dhonnail residents.

He said that the stand-off was good humoured. Residents had voted 27-3 against the installation of meters and he joked that one household was split “50-50” in relation to the vote.

Gardai did not intervene after being called to the scene during a tense stand-off in which the residents and workmen took photos of each other.

“This goes to show that with organised peaceful protest we can all help to show our resistance to what many believe to be an unfair and unjust tax with yet another questionable company that involves in Denis O'Brien,” said a statement from the residents.

It is only in the past week or so that sub-contractors have begun to install meters in Galway City, starting in the Cappagh Road area of Knocknacarra.

Workmen had moved on to other estates in the vicinity, where there was less resistance, by Thursday morning.

Volunteers from Right 2 Water have maintained a presence in local housing estates, so that “alerts” can be sent out when the workmen arrive. 

Recent revelations regarding the controversial sale of Siteserv by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) have hardened the resolve of residents to oppose the new water charges.

Thomas Pringle TD told the Dail this week that over 800,000 householders have not paid their Irish Water bills, despite the mid-May deadline. 
Signs of resistance in Garrai Dhonnail