There’s a danger when you feel strongly about something that you'll see attacks and opponents where none exist. Which is why I try to check my initial reaction to a lot of the things I encounter in the media. Last Thursday was an example.
I was watching The View, the BBC’s successor to Hearts and Minds. (Ah, taximan, where are you now? Endlessly prowling the streets of Belfast, talking to yourself...) John O’Dowd was on with Edwin Poots and Mark Carruthers was interviewing them about Gerry Adams’s apology in the Dáil for the killing of Garda Jerry McCabe. For years, Sinn Féin have been criticised for their claim that the killers of McCabe should have been released under the Good Friday Agreement. But they weren’t, probably because it was kept in the public consciousness by the southern media in a way that no other death in the Troubles was. Much ink was spent on condemning the heartlessness of what happened, so you might have expected that Gerry Adams’s apology would have been welcomed as a sign that the Sinn Féin leader and his party shared at least to some extent, the feelings of horror and dismay that the killing evoked. But not so. Since that apology was made, Adams has instead been the focus of relentless criticism. The View quickly fell into the same pattern.
John O’Dowd was asked in so many words to explain Gerry Adams’s hypocrisy in doing such a thing. O’Dowd responded by explaining (or trying to explain) that apologies and dealing with past hurt should involve all those who had suffered. Edwin Poots was then asked his thoughts and he in so many words rejected Gerry Adams’s hypocrisy in offering an apology, when he hadn’t apologised for all the IRA-related deaths in the north.
It’s at this point that I had to check my initial reaction. And then check it again. And a third time. Because it seemed to me that Carruthers was grilling O’Dowd but letting Poots simply join him in the grilling rather than pressing him on the need for apology to be many-sided. What I saw was a seriously lop-sided interview, with BBC balance conspicuous by its absence.
As I say, there’s always a danger that when you’ve strong feelings on a topic, you see attacks and opponents where none exist. I know Mark Carruthers and I’ve always found him a pleasant, friendly guy. But it still seems to me that The View last week was one-eyed where it really should have been two-eyed. Tell me I’m wrong.