Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Michael Clifford: Debating the tired claims of ‘media bias’

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This is a startling story written by Irish Examiner columnist Michael Clifford, the target of a vicious personal attack written by pro Sinn Féin blogger Jude Collins.

Sources are crucial – some are reliable, retired university lecturer Jude Collins is not reliable, despite his large online following. Beware.

Blogger Jude Collins with Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald and former Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

I have received death threats. I have received threats that my daughter will be raped. These have come from supporters of a political party. I have not gone to the gardaí about these threats. That suggests that I am probably a liar and am manufacturing these threats and blaming a political party because I’m hopelessly biased against them.

So it goes in the parallel universe of social media.

The above statements and inferences appeared in a blog by an academic and writer a few years back. I just discovered the blog 10 days ago and contacted the blogger.

His name is Jude Collins. He is a retired university lecturer and prominent Sinn Féin supporter in which guise he writes columns and frequently contributes to radio and TV. His blog attracts thousands of like minds — up to 25,000 for the ‘most-read posts’. The blog posting that disseminated lies about me was entitled ‘Michael Clifford and the Social Media’.

After laying out these inventions, which Mr Collins said I had related on an RTÉ radio programme, he wrote the following:

“What the conventional media are discovering is the power of the social media. The power Michael wields through his column is balanced by the power wielded by the social media, through the keyboards of all the hitherto-voiceless people out there. That I think is good. Where it stops being good is when the social media becomes the messenger for threats of violence. That’s why I think Michael should tell us more about the threats, how he knows they come from Sinn Féin and what he has done or plans to do about them.”

I told Mr Collins that nobody ever threatened my life, not to mind a Shinner. I don’t have a daughter but if I did I would be very angry at anybody writing falsities about threats of rape. I never said any of the things which he had attributed to me. On hearing this, Mr Collins was apologetic and said he’d check it up to see where he went wrong and take down the post.

I pointed out to him that anybody reading his blog and the posted responses which agreed with it would come to the conclusion that I, who make my living as a journalist, is a liar who would manufacture threats of rape just to paint Sinn Féin black.

This brought Mr Collins onto his pet subject — the media is biased against so-called Republicans. We went around in circles with that chestnut for a while.
— Read on www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/views/columnists/michael-clifford/michael-clifford-debating-the-tired-claims-of-media-bias-1006275.html

An additional postscript from the journalist Malachi O’Doherty :

“I was going to stay out of the Bobby Storey story since I have had my say in the past and there are people who loved him and the tradition we observed back in the Talkback days was not to attack someone until after the funeral. But Jude Collins brings me into it.

Jude thinks it is funny that Storey kidnapped people and robbed banks. In the scale of Storey’s crimes, intimidation of a journalist is not the worst but you’d think that Jude, another commentator, wouldn’t smirk at a paramilitary threat against someone else in the same game.

The backdrop to it is this: In the early days of the peace process a few republicans set up a discussion group which they called the Bobby Sands Discussion Group. Bobby Storey and another top provo visited the home of one of the organisers and put the wind up him, telling him that the peace process was not to be questioned.

That was covered in The Sunday Times. I looked up Storey in Bowyer Bell’s book on the IRA and read that he was known the the police by the code Brain Surgeon ( BS – geddit?) because he had killed people with a single shot to the head.

I wrote a piece for Talkback saying that the peace process now depended on enforcers. How did we feel about that? A legitimate discussion point.

Then a member of the Bobby Sands group came to me. Storey had not heard the piece but he would like to. I printed out the script and gave it to him to pass on. This wasn’t exactly a secret document since it had already been broadcast.

Some nights later I was in the Felons Club for the Bobby Sands memorial lecture delivered by Gerry Kelly. At one point I went to the toilet and when I came out a very large man introduced himself as Bobby Storey and pushed me up against the wall.

He said he had ‘got hold’ of my script. He seemed not to know that I had sent it to him and wanted to impress me with his intelligence gathering. I tried to speak. He said, Shut the fuck up.’ He said I was a slug and an MI5 agent and basically, if I hadn’t just cleared my bladder I might have done so just there. It was a scary moment.

None of this is new. I wrote it up as the prologue to The Trouble With Guns. Another journalist asked Storey why he had behaved like this. Usually Sinners are civil even if they despise you. The message came back that I was not welcome in west Belfast.

My impression of Storey was that he had let himself down, broken with the mannered charade of civility cultivated by the PR department.

Jude, who never had the pleasure of meeting him shares his adulation for him in his blog.”

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