The Communications Clinic
The Communications Clinic
March 8, 2021

Day 150

Amazed by the calamitous fall from grace of the man riding the dead horse, of whom I had never heard, up to now. Can’t understand the nation grinding to a halt over this deceased equine, it’s not like the horse was a family member. It was a working asset.

Appalling bad taste hardly merits the attention it gets in a week in which a journalist of standing is revealed to have been a double-dealer.

Roy Greenslade started in the tabloids, where he colluded with Robert Maxwell in rigging the Spot the Ball competition so the readers paying his wages couldn’t win. But, hey, that was OK because Greenslade didn’t enjoy it. It “haunted” him, he confided to his diary.

See the sensibilities, here? This was clearly a journalist made for finer things, once he got out of the tabloids and moved to a good reliable, fighting-for-truth paper like The Guardian, which he did. No possibility, there, or as a journalism professor (which he also became), of him colluding with anyone to cheat readers or students of a few quid. No? In fact, he did worse.

This journalist some of us, in our ingrown naiveté, looked up to and confirmed our moral rectitude by reading, this eminent and credible figure, when working to the eminent and credible editor of The Guardian, committed journalistic crimes that put rigging a competition in the ha’penny place.

Greenslade, writing anti-IRA material for his employer, secretly wrote the exact opposite under a false name in An Phoblacht, the IRA publication. And, later, while writing for The Guardian, followed the IRA line in rubbishing Mairia Cahill’s claims of child sex abuse against IRA senior figures.

When this was revealed, Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian, on whose watch Greenslade worked, responded with the ultimate weasel words, vaguely opining that “all editors” for whom Greenslade worked must wish he’d shown more transparency. “All editors,” you note. “Wasn’t just me, guv.”

Nor does the vague “transparency” get even close to the issue. Greenslade was directing journalists who were investigating IRA actions and was, as a result, in a position, day in, day out, to put them in grievous danger by informing those who could manipulate the truth of what they wrote.

Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty has called for his removal from a committee addressing the future of Irish media. She is right. Greenslade should have resigned the minute the matter hit the fan. His late-onset honesty was apparently provoked by questions from his grandson. He’s not sorry, though. Not a bit.

Day 151

Watching the Journal.ie’s Sinead O’Carroll on Virgin’s breakfast show. She says her outing to the Virgin studios is the only time she’ll leave her house this week. Astonishing.

Well, of course, it’s not astonishing at all, but a Pandemic Behaviour Syndrome has developed and it goes like this. If you suffer from PBS, you think nobody else is complying with the rules the way you are. You think nobody else is working as hard as you are, that they just turn up for Zoom meetings but otherwise sit out the back with beakers of coffee, scrolling through Instagram.

You think everybody is getting vaccinated faster than you are. You would think other bad things, too, but you haven’t the energy; PBS means sleeping nine hours a night and still being exhausted.

Day 152

Apropos last night’s Prime Time on illegal adoptions, imagine this. A TD comes to another TD with a problem. The second TD is a doctor and future minister for health. The first, non-doctor TD has a girl working for him and his wife who’s become pregnant by her useless boyfriend and is gone off to look after an aunt in England.

The TD was confided in, but hasn’t told his wife. The help he needs from the TD who is a doctor is this. The couple already have an adopted child and would like to enlarge their family. The girl’s baby will be born in a matter of weeks, and the TD wants to adopt it. But, the doctor says, what about the girl?

Oh, she’ll come back and be close to the child and sure she’s not the brightest anyway. But what about your wife? What about her? She’s a wonderful mother and will be happy out. The doctor TD gets overwhelmed by the TD’s pleas for his signature on the form to permit what was then called a ‘private’ adoption, and eventually caves in.

Later, the doctor finds out that another doctor facilitated the private adoption of the first child in the family. And that the TD fathered both children and would go on to father a third on the same girl. The girl working in the house and helping to raise her own children while having no rights to them or identity for them as their mother.

It was legal. That’s the horrifying part. 

When I published a novel about it, nobody ever asked if the story was true. And — who knows — it may have been just one of dozens of equally egregious but perfectly legal “private” adoptions at the time.

Day 153

The director of the Today Show puts me on the air to Maura and Daithí despite my Skype failing, for which I am inordinately grateful until I catch a glimpse of myself. This is never fun, because of the witchy look the long hair delivers, but today is worse than usual, because it seemed like a good idea to add logs to the stove I sit in front of during the broadcast, so as to cook dinner in it at the same time. It was not a good idea. The heat makes me look parboiled.

Day 154

It doesn’t get much attention, but one of the best things in the UK’s Rishi Sunak’s budget is a life-long commitment to Britain’s thalidomide survivors. These are the folk, now in their 60s, born with missing or misplaced limbs because their mothers were prescribed a new wonder drug.

They’ve adapted and managed — and because they’ve been using their bodies in ways for which those bodies were not intended, they are now suffering painful complications. Sunak’s provision starts with £39m for the next four years. Which looks good, when you realise it’s to cover 400 people. It looks even better when you compare it with the hostile, uncaring approach taken by successive Irish governments to the much smaller group of Irish thalidomiders.

Day 155

Lots of coverage, this week, about it being a full year since the coronavirus flattened our lives. Pakistani, Filipino, and Indian doctors and nurses don’t figure much in that coverage. In their thousands, they have done the State a hell of a service, but ‘frontline’ tends to be taken as meaning ‘white’.

Day 156

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn becomes chair of NUIG. Great appointment of a brilliant, ruthless, impatient agent of change.