Ireland is in the midst of a massive popular awakening as hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest the introduction of water charges. After too many years of austerity it would appear the people have decided enough is enough and almost spontaneous rebellion has appeared in every town and city. Confrontations between Gardai and campaigners that are reminiscent of the suppression of protest in Rossport have erupted in Dublin suburbs.
The Irish Times has decided to give loads of space today (2 June) for Denis O'Brien to publish an unchallenged self pity but am I not great piece. Denis trots out the now old line about him only being an ordinary private citizen without perhaps even being aware the rest of us ordinary private citizens lack both the power to demand our own IT column or the wealth & power to intimidate almost every media outlet into silence. He even says the decision to do so was made by him in a nanosecond!
The last 24 hours (29th May) have demonstrated the truth of 'If you want to know who really rules you find out who you are not allowed to criticise'. As the image shows billionaire media mogul Denis O'Brien has managed to almost completely suppress stories about him in the few outlets he does not control.
Those media outlets he has ownership of seem to have somehow missed TD Catherine Murphy's revelation that somehow O'Brien had managed to only pay 1.25% interest on the 500 million he owed to IBRC (in effect to us) rather than the expected market rate of around 7.5%. The difference costs us about 30 million a year.
This isn't the first story of O'Brien getting a good deal from the IBRC. Almost a year ago the Irish Times reported "in a deal that again involved the writing down of bank debt. O’Brien took a controlling interest after he bought about €304 million of the Topaz Energy Group’s] loans from the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), in liquidation,for a reported €150 million."
The National Union Of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed concern over Denis O'Brien silencing of media and the role his control over much of the media plays in the lack of media opposition.
The NUJ are concerned that the media failure to defend Dáil privilege may shatter public trust. Then more cynical amongst us might think that would be a good thing, for too long media outlets in Ireland have been spoon feeding the population with one side of the news in the service of those with wealth and power. O'Brien is at least doing us the 'favour' of making the control those with power over what can and cannot be reported very obvious.
NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley has warned that faith in the media would be shattered if proprietors and editors did not challenge threats to parliamentary democracy and freedom of expression.
The saga of Denis O'Brien trying to stop the media reporting on his relationship with IBRC continues this evening. A short while ago a story reporting on what was said about the deal in the Dáil today vanished from the Irish Times website. Our picture is the screen grab of that story.