Irish Times ‘sexes up’ Garda press release

Four Irish news websites differ markedly in their handling of a Garda press release referring to groups who might “exploit” tomorrow’s GPO rally to cause “disruption”.

The Irish Times breaking news section feature carries a dramatic photograph of a Garda in full riot gear holding back a crowd, taken during the recent student demonstration.

Jack O'Connor, Siptu
Siptu president Jack O’Connor: One of the rally promoters
Image: Siptu

The opening paragraph of the Irish Times story describes how “Gardaí have warned there may be “individuals and groups” seeking to exploit the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (Ictu) protest rally.”

The reality is more mundane. The reference to “individuals and groups who seek to exploit such events for their own ends” comes in the final paragraph of a lengthy press release sent out by the Garda Press Office just before midday.

RTÉ chose to illustrate the same story with an aerial view of Dublin city centre, and the headline is the much more neutral “Gardaí hope for peaceful Dublin march”. The Irish Independent and Irish Examiner articles avoid mentioning unruly “individuals and groups” at all, although they quote liberally from a senior Garda officer on plans for (peaceful) policing on the day.

One is left to wonder: how many of potential marchers might be put off by worries of violent outbreaks on the day?

Quite what effect the story will have on the middle class civil servants who make up the bulk of the membership of unions like Siptu is unclear. Ireland is not noted for loud protest at the best of times, and most of those likely to brave the icy cold of an O’Connell Street Saturday are unlikely rioters.