Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Bin Laden, Dervish and the Mystery of the Government Press Site

The Government have a fancy MerrionStreet.ie website that’s designed to “afford a view of government from the vantage point of Government Buildings itself.” According to its “about” section it is produced by a team in Government Buildings, involving the Government Information Service, Government Press and IT - all fully paid up civil servants at the disposal of the Government to bring you the news from your elected representatives. I’m not sure how much it costs, but I doubt it’s cheap. On the 4th May, a statement appeared on this Government press site;
“SHATTER PRESS RELEASE – Shatter critical of cyber-bullying The Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group’s (IPSG) action in directing its members to “target” the website of the musical group Dervish in order to intimidate the group into cancelling their planned concerts in Israel is nothing other than cyber-bullying. The invitation to Dervish to perform in Israel came from a fellow musician who “worked to bridge divides between people through music for much of his life” and the objective of the concerts was “to promote love between two divided communities”. It is absolutely understandable that the group, in the face of an “avalanche of negativity” and “venom” on social media websites took the decision to cancel their concerts – but it is a great pity that the bullying tactics of the IPSG worked. If the IPSG were in any way interested in promoting peace and reconciliation in a troubled part of the world they would recognise the value of cultural and artistic exchanges and the contribution such events make to fostering understanding and tolerance. But, unfortunately, IPSG’s interest is not in peace and reconciliation.”
There are a number of problems with this. It’s quite obvious that Minister Alan Shatter was in fact referring to the IPSC here but that aside, did this statement go out on this website in his capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality, or Minister for Defence, or just plain old Alan Shatter? If this statement went out in his capacity as Minister for Justice, it makes a mockery of cabinet positions. I can’t think of any other state where a Minister for Justice would have so little to do, he would draft a press statement because some activist group supporting a cultural boycott of Israel, succeeded in getting a group to not play in Israel. Maybe he had tickets for Dervish in Tel Aviv and was just really annoyed over it. The interesting thing about this statement is (aside from people in a Government Press Office are paid to write such god-awful statements) that if he is speaking in a personal capacity then there are serious questions to be asked as to why taxpayers’ money is being used to facilitate a press service for government TDs when they aren’t speaking in reference to their Ministerial remit. I can’t see anything in this statement even remotely related to Justice and Equality, or Defence, so what are the criteria for allowing TDs to use it? Can opposition TDs use it too? And no it’s not just about Dervish, Al Qaeda get a mention too when he goes on to say;
“Worryingly, reports of newly declassified documents, seized from his hideout in Pakistan following his death last year, indicate that the actions of the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Group (IPSG) and its associates have caught the attention of some of Osama Bin Ladens followers who now see Ireland as promising ground for support.”
Actually the Irish Times covered these “declassified documents” which (if they are genuine) basically said, Irish people are mostly Catholic but they’re really upset with the Catholic Church now, and they are generally more tolerant of Muslims than other religions so they might be open to conversion to Islam. Interestingly, the document didn’t refer to the IPSC at any point, or its associates or followers, but did mention “the soft treatment of the judicial system to Muslims accused of terrorist acts." Funny that Alan Shatter, the Minister for Justice, left that bit out. He concludes;
“IPSG’s appeal to human rights rings hollow. It ignores the constitutional rights of Irish citizens and those who live in this State to get on with their lives, to travel and to perform around the world free from bullying, intimidation and discrimination. It is particularly extraordinary that the orchestrated campaign targeted at Dervish occurred at a time when thousands have lost their lives in Syria and the IPSG have remained silent about the crimes against humanity being committed there.”
I have one word in response to this, and it’s “Gaza.”

No comments: