Ireland: Rupert Murdoch's newspapers relationship with the powerful & corrupt may be his Achilles heel.
|Idiot labour chauvinist Gordon Brown tries to cuddle up to Murdoch - Murdoch could smell a loser and backed Cameron instead!|
|Brown gets his come-uppance as Murdoch dumps him|
I first came across the article below some weeks ago and put it to one side for later use. I've republished it today as I feel its still relevant; the more so as the Leveson Report has still not been published in full, nor has a government blue print of any future legislation which would regulate the British press.
|The lugubrious right-wing git whose papers are the most racist around but who opposes 'anti-Semitism' when supporting Zionism|
In the piece Paul Larkin highlights the close links between the 'Murdoch Empire' and the British security service, and the upper echelons of the police and government. In the latter case, over the last 15 years we have witnessed one prime minister flying half way across the world at the drop of a hat, to attend a 'hail Rupert' event, and another placing a Murdoch bag-man at the heart of 10 Downing Street. Plus the Leveson inquiry all but revealed there was an open back door at Number 10, through which Rupert Murdoch was free to come and go and when ever the old rogue said jump, the political elite replied "How high."
It also brought into question the past reluctance of the Metropolitan police to investigate properly the crimes committed by senior employees of the Murdoch empire. And not only the police it seems; for when Rupert Murdoch, a man whose businesses had such an unsavoury and shady reputation, was given free access to subsequent British prime ministers, why did the security services not object? After all it was not as if he was a British citizen, I cannot think of another unelected foreigner who was given such access to British prime ministers. Besides, most fair minded people would agree Murdoch's newspapers cheapened the British way of life, degraded the political process, and weakened our democracy. Something the Security Services are 'supposedly' there to protect.
Yet both the police and security services used Murdoch and his editors as an appendage of the UK State apparatus, and by doing so gave them a 'keep out of jail free' card. In return they targeted 'perceived enemies' of the State and were used to nudge governmental policies in a direction favoured by neo liberals politicians, big business, police and members of the secret state. No where more so than in the British run enclave in the north east of Ireland, especially when the British government was bringing the Provisional Republican Movement in from the cold.
Even the actions of powerful people can have unforeseen consequences, and it seems by smearing two of the most senior US figures who were working alongside their British counterparts as enablers to bring the Provo's into the political mainstream, Murdoch may finally end up paying a price for News Corps phone and computer hacking and the alledged payment of bribes for information and influence received, to police officers and god knows who else. Not in the UK but in the USA, his 'adopted home.' If former News Corp employees like Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson are found guilty, the Murdoch empire will have broken US law, as it will have contravened the USA's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
|Senator George Mitchell - his senior aide was smeared in a made up sex scandal with an IRA man, Gerald Kelly as the Sun & Murdoch tried to derail the Irish peace process|
Although having said that, and given the news blackout in the USA which Paul mentions below, it could be the political, media, and business elites, in both the UK and USA, have concluded the Murdoch Empire will remain a protected species. However, given his support for right wing neo liberal crazies in the last two US presidential elections, it could be the Democratic administration are as keen as most British folk to see the back of him, we can but live in hope.
In the UK Murdoch is still up to his old game of gaining influence by 'grooming' leading politicans, Today's Observer reported he has Boris Johnson within his grasp, having invited him to a private dinner at his Mayfair home. The paper went on to say, it is the latest sign of growing intimacy between the media mogul and the mayor of London.
We can only guess what is in it for the over ambitious Johnson, who as mayor has responsibilty for the Metropolitan Police. But can it be correct for him to meet Murdoch when only last week the Met arrested one of his senior employees Virginia Wheeler, and charged her with causing misconduct in public office, with prosecutors claiming she paid a Met police officer £6,450 for sensitive information.
Chris Bryant the Labour MP things not:
"There is something decidedly unseemly about Boris Johnson's relationship with the Murdoch empire.He did their bidding by trying to have the new police investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World suspended by calling it 'politically motivated codswallop'. Now he is attempting to win their support for when his leadership bid commences."
Made up IRA sex scandal story and others now come back to haunt Murdoch Empire.
The potential significance of the decision by the English prosecution authorities to arraign for trial a number of very senior figures of News Corp’s UK division (News International) cannot be underestimated in terms of company compliance laws in the United States. As the Guardian newspaper reported, if senior News International executives Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks are found guilty of having made illegal payments to police and public officials, they will have also have been found to have contravened America’s “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”
The fact that this case, which also involves a senior Ministry of Defence employee and other News International employees, is now set for trial places a restriction on any reference to the defendants, but it in general terms it has been established beyond doubt that Rupert Murdoch’s News International subsidiary indulged in corrupt practices involving cell phone and computer hacking and the payment of bribes for information. The question now is simply how far this went up the chain of command. There is, however, one huge element of News International’s illegal and unethical behaviour that has been completely ignored so far and this can be summed up in one word: Ireland.
Why has News International’s reckless and corrupt behaviour in Ireland been forgotten during all the coverage stateside of the News International bribes and hacking scandal? Have American commentators forgotten so quickly that Martha Pope, one of the most respected civil servants in the Senate and senior aide to Senator George Mitchell was smeared in December 1996 via a concocted story about a love affair with former leading IRA man Gerry Kelly? This story, which the New York Post ran with the headline “Sex Scandal Perils IRA Truce” almost derailed the peace process and Senator Mitchell described it as one of the most despicable things he had ever experienced as a politician.
More significantly still, it is clear that the smearing of Martha Pope (and by extension Senator Mitchell himself) was no aberration; no one off event. For it follows a pattern of Irish smear, libel and hacking exploits produced by Murdoch titles based in the UK and Ireland that had the overall effect of casting suspicion on the peace process and those who sought reform of both the security forces in Northern Ireland and its once staunchly pro-British and anti-Catholic institutions.
Lest we forget, in 1988, a young woman called Carmen Proetta made the mistake of honestly reporting what she saw from her kitchen window as a unit of Britain’s elite SAS executed 3 unarmed IRA members on the island of Gibraltar. Ms Proetta’s graphic account of the coup de grace shots to the head being administered to the already stricken IRA members completely undermined the official version of events, dutifully asserted by a gung-ho British media - that the SAS had fired in self-defence. However, News International newspapers then began to question not only Ms Proetta’s ability to recall these events properly but also her personal character. The tabloid “Sun” newspaper described Ms Proetta as 'The tart of Gib', but it is more useful to look at the approach used by the ‘A market’ Sunday Times to besmirch Carmen Proetta’s reputation because this late 1980s style “personality hack” carried important pointers for the future journalistic approach of News International titles.
Carmen Proetta eventually won a string of libel awards from Murdoch newspapers and other titles but the use by Times newspapers of a drug criminal and secret service “agent”, Joseph Wilkins to try and smear Carmen Proetta as an escort agency Madam in its libel trial was not given wide coverage,
partly because Ms Proetta’s libel settlement was not reached until a few years after the initial traducing of her name and reputation.
The judge in the Carmen Proetta v Sunday Times libel trial, Mr Justice Drake, was scathing about the attempt by Times Newspapers to use Wilkins as a witness in its defence:
"It is conceded that Wilkins is a man with an appalling record, and it appears from documents that I have seen that Wilkins asked for payment in return for giving the statement and that the defendants, after the statement was given, did pay £2,000 to Wilkins's sister at his request, which they falsely described as a consultancy fee." In the sake of fairness, it should be pointed out that certain Sunday Times journalists like Rosie Waterhouse were appalled at the way her newspaper had covered the Gibraltar killings and their aftermath. Ms Waterhouse resigned her post over the affair after accusing her own paper of having left itself:“wide open to accusations that we had set out to prove one point of view and misrepresented and misquoted interviews ...”
The Sunday Times was subsequently to lose an even greater sum of money in the year 2000 onwards by again defending the reputation of British security force units in Northern Ireland (now widely accepted as tarnished) after it libelled the journalist and film maker Seán McPhilemy who had claimed collusion between the security forces and pro-British killer gangs.
It is true that McPhilemy has been successfully challenged in other regards but it is nonetheless remarkable that an English jury found McPhilemy’s account of RUC terror tactics wholly believable when finding completely against the Sunday Times. Moreover, in this libel trial too, evidence is now emerging via the Leveson Inquiry into Newspaper ethics, and elsewhere, that News International has possibly engaged in improper practices in the context of this trial.
Overall, it is the practice of paying dubious sources, who were very often police narks and/or security force personnel to source, propagate or concoct stories that has become a notorious hallmark of Murdoch titles. But there is a crucial difference, as ever, between Ireland and the UK.
In England, we now know that Murdoch newspapers enjoyed a special relationship with the upper echelons of the security services, police and political classes. Or more accurately, with the conservative wing of these houses. There News International libels, hacking and smear stories mainly affected celebrity and sports personalities. But where Ireland and Irish issues were concerned, this special relationship gave an inevitably political edge to the libelling and smears.
The likes of Carmen Proetta were targeted because of the robustly right wing and “Rule Britannia” approach of Murdoch newspapers over Irish affairs. But if we hadn’t learned the lessons of the Carmen Proetta case, we should really have put two and two together by the time the New York Post, amongst other newspaper brands, smeared George Mitchell’s senior aide at a crucial moment in the Irish Peace Process in 1996. Indeed Senator George Mitchell himself went so far as to say that the problem lay not just with UK newspapers but with part of the British administration itself, for whom the entry of Sinn Féin into government was a step too far: "What was unique about many of the leaks from the NIO is that they were designedto undermine the policy of the British government of which they were a part."* A media blackout. After this extraordinary turn of events, where a senior and highly respected American politician effectively highlighted a cabal within the British government that was leaking to sections of the media that were hostile to the peace process, one would have thought that a major inquiry would have ensued. Instead there was silence.
In fact it was worse than silence because there seemed to be an acceptance that this was just the way government and reporting worked in and about Ireland. As far as I am aware, apart from the reports filed by Niall O’Dowd and Tim Pat Coogan, no major journalistic investigation of either the Carmen Proetta, Martha Pope or Seán McPhilemy libel cases took place in America.
But as we shall see, these three instances of libelling and smears are by no means the exception to Rupert Murdoch’s Irish rule and the question has to be raised as to why News Corp has never been challenged over the dubious and reckless nature of News International’s coverage of Irish political affairs – reckless because it not only nearly destroyed the Irish peace process but also endangered people’s lives.
Right throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s when the Irish peace accord was on a knife edge, key players in the talks process were talking about the damage that malicious leaks and imprudent stories from News International titles were causing – principally the Times, the Sunday Times and the News of the World.
In 1995 British prime minister John Major pleaded with Times newspapers not to leak a “framework” for peace document that was merely at draft stage and therefore not an accurate reflection of policy. Major’s pleas fell on deaf ears and “mayhem”, to use Major’s word, ensued. Then in 1997 the Sunday Times described Belfast Catholic Mary McAleese (the future and most popular President of Ireland ever ) as a “tribal time bomb” and a “hate figure” for Unionists.
In September 1999, the politician entrusted with creating a new police service for Northern Ireland,. Chris Patten, hit out at scares and smears regarding abolition of the old RUC. Patten was referring to the fact that stories were being put about by newspapers, including Times newspapers, that gave the idea that IRA men would soon be policing their own areas in a kind of “Balkanisation” of the police force. Patten slammed these reports:
“Suggestions that we are intending to Balkanise the police service in Northern Ireland are a straightforward fabrication”, he said. Patten also said “Some people have very clearly been involved in the business of trying to create a very difficult political atmosphere for our report, and I wholly deplore that.” In 2003, the then Irish foreign affairs minister Brian Cowen issued a statement directly alluding to media coverage, partly from News International titles, about British spies in the IRA, saying they were designed to destroy the peace process. By 2006, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, took the unprecedented action of holding a review of amongst all the covert security force agencies in order to show that senior Sinn Féin peace talks delegate Martin McGuinness had never been a British spy.
A theme pushed by News International at this time was that Martin McGuinness had led a charmed life; for example by escaping arrest when his comrades had been captured. Peter Hain’s initiative helped to expose two key ex security force informants for Murdoch newspapers (Ian Hurst and Peter Keeley) in trying to pass off a fake intelligence document as proof that Martin McGuinness was a British spy. It subsequently emerged that it had been the Sunday Times that had given Hurst and Keeley their pseudonyms, Martin Ingram and Kevin Fulton respectively.
Neither Hurst nor Keeley have any credibility as witnesses and their use by Murdoch newspapers as alleged high grade informants from 1999 to 2004 is questionable to say the least and has still not been properly examined. Perhaps, by 2006 and very late in the day, News International had come to realise that Hurst and Keeley were not credible witnesses because not even the Sunday Times would publish their bogus MI6 document.
As if all the above was not enough, evidence is now emerging that in that very year of 2006, and at the defining moment in the peace process, News International operatives may possibly have hacked Hugh Orde, the then Chief of Police in Northern Ireland. The hacking of Orde is still being investigated but, more significantly, the Metropolitan Police have warned Peter Hain, who was then the Province’s effective Prime Minister, that he is almost certainly a victim of News International hacking.
Apart from some articles in the liberal Guardian and elsewhere, there has been a surprising g lack of comment on this major development in the Irish hacking story. Instead, and bizarrely, newspapers and the media have concentrated on the fact that the former long term informant for Times Newspapers mentioned above, Ian Hurst, was also hacked. Yet there can be no comparison between the hacking of a former low ranking, and discredited, intelligence operative like Hurst and the hacking of a secretary of state.
As journalists, we must ask ourselves what the political situation was in 2006 when Secretary of State Peter Hain was hacked. The answer to this question is that in April of 2006, Hain had warned the Unionists and their supporters in Whitehall that if they did not sign up to the planned 2007 peace talks at St Andrews in Scotland he would impose joint rule from London and Dublin. This was the meltdown option for those who see themselves as British in Northern Ireland and it is a reasonable conclusion, given the above litany of journalistic and political transgressions, that News International hackers were looking for dirt on Hain and possibly Hugh Orde so as to throw the peace process into crisis and render Hain’s threat of Dublin Rule redundant. If this is true, these hacking operations would seem to be a clear breach of US anti corruption laws.
Has there been a single question in the USA about the very recent hacking of one of Ireland’s most senior statesmen and public officials? If and when these Irish News Corp scandals are fully examined in America, they may well prove to be the final straws that broke Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp back.
By Paul Larkin Former European Journalist of the Year and BBC journalist and film maker.
* Senator George Mitchell, London Weekend Television, 5th of September 1999