Above: Sunday Business Post Feb. 2016, Irish Independent June 1997. The gallery above is taken from the Irish Independent election campaign February 2016.
As Ireland goes to the polls we link the last ten days of Irish Independent coverage and an unprecedented front page in 1997 that made it all possible.
If we’ve learned one thing from this 2016 election campaign it’s the willingness of the Indo to go full Leeroy Jenkins when it comes to protecting the establishment from Sinn Féin.
In a revealing bottom paragraph in a recent Sunday Business Post article (top), they reported a government strategist’s plan for the campaign:
“There will be a huge assault on Sinn Féin after it’s rise today, and the government parties will now embark on a full scale fear offensive, warning of the economic consequences of instability – or even a left-led government. But the truth is that Fine Gael has undermined its own economic credibility by its long litany of promises to cut tax and increase spending.
“We will scare the shit out of them for the last ten days,” said one key government strategist last week.”
In the gallery above we’ve compiled the front pages of editor’s Fionnan Sheahan’s Irish Independent for eight of the last ten days.
Each day has carried either a main headline or secondary headline attacking Sinn Féin.
The campaign has drawn derision from all sides, including this piece from Vincent Browne.
Funnily enough, and completely as an aside here, Fionnan used to canvass for Michael Lowry as a gasúr.
This brings us back to a simpler time when our papers were more oblique about their participation in the hegemonic class.
Think back to 1997 and the Rainbow Coalition (or Beards and Blueshirts, as we like to call it).
There was mobile phone licenses, tomato sandwiches out of the boot on match days and church gate collections.
However the political world was stunned when, one day before the election in June of that year, the Indo printed an editorial on the front page calling for a Fianna Fáil victory:
“For years we have been bled white – now it’s payback time”
The column and accompanying main headline “FF, PDs Surge To Victory” is credited to an extent with swinging the country into 13 years of unbridled economic cowboyism that looks to have set us into a cycle of decades of future debt.
Why did they call for a change of government? Was it for the betterment of society?
According to Lowry’s testimony in the Moriarty Tribunal the owner of the Indo, Tony O’Reilly – known as the ‘Bean Baron’ because he made his fortune with Heinz – was pissed off with the Fine Gaelers for awarding the lucrative mobile phone licence to Denis O’Brien’s Esat crowd and not his Irish Cellular Telephones Consortium.
Sir Anthony (as the Indo referred to him) told the tribunal:
“He believed he first met Mr Lowry at the opening of the Arcon mine in Co Kilkenny on September 15, 1995.
He claimed the then Communications Minister said “your fellas didn’t do too well today”.
Mr O’Reilly said the minister explained he was referring to the AT&T representatives who had earlier that day made a presentation to the departmental panel in charge of selecting the successful GSM applicant.
AT&T was part of the Independent group’s Irish Cellular Telephones consortium.”
Ten years down the line and the whole world was laughing at Bertie Ahern and his shenanigans going into the 2007 election.
The whole world that is except The Sindo’s chief political columnist Eoghan Harris.
Eoghan’s hard work pushing the FF apple tart over the line in ’07 saw Bertie nominate him to the Seanad.
Sir Anthony pulled out of Independent News & Media in 2009 to a great extent after a larger Billionaire loomed over the horizon. Yep, the one what won thon licence from Michael Lowry.
Isn’t it a funny aul worrild?
They came to a sort of truce, Beany and Dobbo, although things have gone a bit pear-shaped for the man from the Bahamas and he’s tantamount to insolvent now.
The Maltese falcon is still flying on both wings, or so it appears.
By 2011, Dobby’s Indo was behind the FuGgers although even they couldn’t have kept the toxic Fianna Fáil in power had they wanted to.
In 2013 the state-owned (we bailed ’em out) banks got together and wrote off a shit tonne of INM debt as it happens.
As a letter writer to the Irish Times in 1999 put it:
“However, when a powerful newspaper throws its weight so dramatically behind a particular prospective government, there is bound to be speculation about the relationship between the paper, its owner and the political system”.
Shure that’s that.