Friday, March 04, 2005

Sinn Féin and Michael McDowell

William Hederman discusses the political situation in Ireland:

But how had the views of the country crystallised? Was Sinn Féin losing support? A yardstick arrived in the form of an opinion poll in the Irish Independent last Friday, presented under the headline: "Backlash hits Adams". Satisfaction among voters in the Republic with the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, had dropped from 52% in October 2002 to a "rock-bottom" 31%. "The people said 'enough!'" was how the paper interpreted the poll results in that day's editorial.

However, this slant obscured what was perhaps the poll's most significant finding. In the front page story, readers had to wait until the eighth paragraph to discover that, despite Sinn Féin's extremely bad press, the party's support had dropped by only one point, to 9%.

The next day, in the weekly magazine Village, editor Vincent Browne offered his own theory about the Independent's presentation of the story. "The alarm of the establishment in the South with the poll ratings, in the light of [the recent] media bloodbath, was captured by the decision of the editors of the Irish Independent ... to focus not on the substantive findings of the poll on support for political parties, but almost entirely on the 'collapse' in the ratings of Gerry Adams."

With all this going on, not much attention has been paid to Ireland's criminal justice bill, which would introduce wide-ranging new police powers and has been "quietly" making its way through the Dáil, according to Irish Times columnist Mary Raftery. The man who has done the most to maintain the IRA/Sinn Féin furore is the very man introducing the new bill, Michael McDowell.

Raftery cited the concerns of Ireland's Human Rights Commission - concerns ignored by the minister - specifically the removal of the need to have a judge sign a search warrant, conferring that power instead on a Garda superintendent; and the admissibility of statements from those who subsequently retract them. "In a climate where the Garda's credibility is under severe pressure on a number of fronts, and where the minister himself is much given to making allegations without evidence," said Raftery, referring to Mr McDowell's claim that Mr Adams and others were on the IRA army council, "the dangers of introducing draconian new legislation are all too evident."

Nice to see that in spite of all the biased, hostile media coverage that Sinn Féin's support has held steady.


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