An end to bias – but only on Pat Rabbitte’s terms

When Pat Rabbitte was announced as one of the guests on last weekend’s Saturday Night Show with Brendan O’Connor, we were promised a conversation peppered with his “legendary wit”. Instead, what we got amounted to a display of just how blind-sighted Labour politicians have become.

Take, for example, the vexatious issue of Irish Water, and the accusation by the government that RTE has done little but add fuel to the flames of this ongoing argument. Rabbitte himself is on record as accusing RTE of promoting “constant negative commentary about Irish Water”. He’s even gone so far as to say that RTE has acted like a “recruiting sergeant” for groups protesting against water charges. And, in one particular episode of The Week In Politics, he spoke about how RTE had a “statutory obligation to do more than merely report and criticise” and that there was a duty to educate and inform.

When asked about the matter by Brendan O’Connor, Rabbitte showed he was in no mood to back down. He’d like to see a proper programme made by RTE, he said, one with a fully indepth investigation into the pros and cons for Irish Water. Admittedly, it might come out in the end as still finding fault with the Government, but at least the investigation would have taken place in a fair way.

Pat Rabbitte wants to Hear Both Sides?

It was around about this time that I was about the welcome Rabbitte in the fold of all those pro-life supporters in Ireland who feel that RTE doesn’t bother investigating the abortion issue with any sense of objectivity. Surely his new-found sense of indignation would carry through to the abortion issue? And he’d have to be well-disposed to the claims of the Hear Both Sides campaign, which organised the recent 33 to 1 event in Dublin, all to highlight the extreme bias that exists in the media when it comes to abortion?

I thought that for a minute or two, but then I remembered. Pat Rabbitte only opposes bias when it doesn’t work in his favour. As a former Minister for Communications, you might have thought that he would be anxious to stamp it out wherever it rears its head – fair debate means hearing both sides of the argument, after all – but that hasn’t been the impression he’s given in the past.

Debate is a dangerous thing…

Remember the time in 2012 when he effectively said he hoped the Catholic Church would stay out of the abortion debate? That wasn’t exactly his finest hour – after all, as the then-Minister for Communications, wasn’t it his job to encourage debate about important issues of the day? Of course, it’s clear to see why he opposed the Church’s involvement, given the fact that it was very clear that the Church would oppose the Government’s plans to introduce abortion.

It’s a trend that has been repeated a few times since. During the 2013 “debate” on abortion, there wasn’t a peep out of Pat Rabbitte when RTE steadfastly refused to hold a single Prime Time debate on the contents of the controversial Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Bill. Debate is all very fine, it seems, except when it’s not. There is no doubt that if RTE had been prevailed upon to hold even one of those debates, then some of the less-than-palatable aspects of the Bill might have been revealed to the public. Like, for example, the fact that its central tenet – that abortion is available for the full nine months of pregnancy to a woman who suffers from suicidal ideation – isn’t based on any evidence whatsoever but on the long-standing campaign by hardline Labour politicians to introduce abortion by any means possible.

There’s no “promise” in “compromise”

That was the other interesting revelation of Rabbitte’s interview. When asked at one point whether he felt that Labour received an unfair amount of blame from voters for the hardship currently experienced by people in this country, he remarked that Labour had “received 19% of the vote but 90% of the blame”. (The heart bleeds). He then went on to talk about how, as a partner in Government, Labour was forced to make compromises. Essentially they couldn’t have it all their own way. And there’s that little difficulty that we all know how he feels about political promises – they’re good for elections but not much else:-

The problem for Rabbitte and others like him is that when the time comes to look back at the individual achievements of the partners in this Government, it will be very clear that Fine Gael compromised on their commitment not to introduce abortion, while Labour reneged on their own promises to put an end to austerity and make the burden lighter for families who are suffering severe hardship. Put as starkly as that, neither Party is a winner but the real loser, as Rabbitte himself can only be too well aware, is the Labour Party which is marching towards annihilation in the next election. Of course, they’ll still be able to wave the banner of abortion as their sole achievement but that will mean little to the voters who feel so badly let down by them and no amount of banter, wit or even fair debate can change that one little bit.