This afternoon a blog piece featured in the Guardian under the by line of Roy Greenslade. Chilling might be a mild way of describing the invidious effrontery that posed as commentary. Under the pretext of balance Greenslade sought to question the reliability of Máiría Cahill’s abuse narrative which has seen Sinn Fein squeezed over the past fortnight. Cahill’s account has led to intense media grilling of the party over how both it and the IRA dealt with the question of sexual abuse alleged to have been carried out by members of the Gerry Adams dominated Provisional Movement.
Greenslade attacked BBC Spotlight for not revealing in the course of its hour long documentary that Máiría Cahill had at one time been a member of Republican Network for Unity. He postulated that this was an important point on the grounds that without having access to such information the audience might never get to understand the full range of possible motives behind Cahill’s allegations of rape and of being compelled to attend an IRA internal inquiry: ‘vital information was denied to viewers ... Cahill's political stance should have been explored more fully.’
This is the most sinister of reasoning. What Greenslade is brazenly stating is that central to how the public should judge Cahill's claim to have been raped is her politics. He is further suggesting that Spotlight may have deliberately concealed information about her political affiliation. Nowhere does he allow for the very reasonable supposition on the part of Spotlight that Cahill’s political beliefs had absolutely no bearing on whether she was raped or not.
If Roy Greenslade believes the BBC guilty of professional malpractice, he does not explain why he left himself open to the same charge by not revealing in his blog piece that he is a former columnist for An Phoblacht/Republican News, writing under the pseudonym George King. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him having performed that role. It was important that journalists did, given the censorious atmosphere of the time. But in the very article in which he sought to cast aspersion on the credibility of Spotlight for not disclosing political affiliation, it might be reasonably expected that some reference to his own political leanings should have been forthcoming.
If Cahill’s allegations are to be treated with more scepticism than say similar claims from a Sinn Fein member or supporter, on the grounds of motive, why only explore former association with RNU as the motive? Given her outspoken opposition to the use of republican political violence might her motive not have been anger at Sinn Fein leadership figures sitting on the army council of an organisation that shot dead two RUC men as they strolled a Lurgan street the very year she claims to have been raped? Moreover, given that she is a woman with very outspoken views on rape might her motive not have been disgust at the Sinn Fein president traipsing around Louth with a man he believed to be a child rapist and whom he later pretended to have been completely estranged from?
That such possible motives were not considered by Greenslade, may be more revealing of his own agenda than they are of either Máiría Cahill or Spotlight. He ruled in the possible motives that suited his own political agenda, and ruled out those that did not.
Women’s rights groups and rape crisis centres will surely have something to say about the agenda driven character corrosion flowing from Greenslade’s poison pen. What they are faced with is a professor of journalism writing for one of the most prestigious British outlets, openly proclaiming that if you have one political belief rather than another your claim to have been raped should be treated with less gravitas: basically, support Sinn Fein and your rape claims will be treated more sympathetically than they will be if you oppose Sinn Fein. This is the moral sewer that the processors of peace are content to drag women’s rights into.
Police forces of the world, line up and get your new rape kit from the Guardian’s professor of jaundiced journalism.