Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Anti-Censorship Series, Vol. 4: The Weird World of an Irish News Journalist

 In opposition to censorship and in solidarity with Anthony and Carrie McIntyre, I am republishing all of the material from The Pensive Quill that The Irish News are trying to drop down a memory hole. This devastating exposé by Paul Campbell is the fourth in the series.

The Weird World of an Irish News Journalist
Paul Campbell

Irish News journalist Allison Morris is some chancer. While having a brass neck is no bad thing for a journalist, Allison’s professional practices would make even the most unscrupulous tabloid hack blush.

This week Allison appeared at the West Belfast Festival waxing lyrical at an Amnesty International event about threats to journalists. What was omitted in her address was that her partner, Ardoyne man Fernando Murphy, has been involved in a campaign of intimidation against one of Allison’s journalist colleagues.

Sunday World journalist Hugh Jordan has been told by police that his life is in danger. The warning came amidst a tirade of online abuse from republican dissidents and others including Fernando Murphy.

The threats follow articles Jordan wrote about the late Martin Meehan senior and the dissident republican paramilitary group Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH). Martin Meehan’s son, Martin og Meehan, took umbrage with both articles. 

Martin og Meehan is a prominent member of ONH’s political wing, the Republican Network for Unity (RNU). Fernando Murphy, Allison Morris’s partner, joined a chorus of vicious harassment and intimidation of Jordan on Martin og’s Facebook page.

Without any foundation whatsoever the journalist was called “an MI5 mouthpiece”, a “vermin bastard”, a “Brit agent”, “scum” and “a piece of shit”. He was ludicrously even accused of being a child abuser.

The vitriol unleashed against Jordan clearly created an environment in which he could be physically attacked. One dissident republican actually wrote, “somebody should target him”. 

Another person noted the exact day and time that Jordan could be found in certain Belfast city centre premises. Allison Morris’s partner, Fernando Murphy, wrote: “Safe to say Hugh Jordan won’t be welcome at Cliftonville in the coming years.”

Jordan, an ardent Celtic fan, had recently attended the Cliftonville-Celtic match at Solitude. The Sunday World journalist took Fernando Murphy’s internet comments as a threat.

Jordan told The Pensive Quill: “Who is this man to decide in which football ground I’ll be made welcome? I was a guest of the Celtic board at Solitude recently. I attended the ground last year when the Celtic youth team played a friendly against Cliftonville  –  again, I was made welcome.

“For this man to tell me I won’t be welcome at a sporting event smacks of fascism.” The PSNI is investigating the online intimidation.

Fernando Murphy is a youth leader in Ardoyne and describes himself as a coach at Cliftonville Olympic. It is totally inappropriate that an individual who works with young people and in the sporting arena is warning someone that they won’t be welcome at a football ground.

It is also highly questionable that someone in his position should be joining in a chorus of harassment led by supporters of a paramilitary organisation.

Fernando Murphy added his comment AFTER ONH’s political wing, RNU, stated on the same Facebook page that it would support threatening newsagents who sold Sunday World.

An RNU spokesperson wrote that they couldn’t disagree with those supporting “an all-out campaign of intimidation against newsagents who still peddle this rag”. The group added menacingly: “In the past republicans have taken delivery vans and burnt the offending articles.”

This real and imminent threat did not feature in Allison Morris’s speech on journalistic threats at Feile an Phobail. Nor did her partner’s verbal thuggery towards Hugh Jordan get a mention.

Jordan has every reason to take Fernando Murphy’s comments seriously. In 2006,Murphy was convicted of attempted GBH, riotous behaviour, and possessing a claw hammer during rioting in Ardoyne. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. 

Murphy joined in the internet assault on JordanAFTER the journalist had been subjected to vicious abuse from Ciaran Murphy of RNU, ONH’s political wing. Referring to Jordan, Ciaran Murphy wrote: “Fuck him, MI5 bastard.” The RNU member then made malicious and totally false claims about Jordan’s personal life and made untrue and malicious remarks about a member of the Rape Crisis Centre.
Ciaran Murphy – who also uses the name Ciaran Cunningham –  is hardly someone in whose online footsteps most sane people would want to follow. He was arrested in 2011 at a protest in which protesters barricaded themselves inside Alliance Party headquarters; in a later protest,excrement was smeared on the door and windows of Alliance Party headquarters. 

Intimidation from Ciaran Murphy/Cunningham must be taken seriously. Just like Fernando Murphy he has a conviction. In 2004, he was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for collecting information  –  in the Royal Victoria Hospital on police, prison officers and loyalists  –  which was likely to be useful to terrorists.

It is highly inappropriate that, as the partner of a journalist, Fernando Murphy is joining supporters of a paramilitary group currently waging an armed campaign, in their frenzy of hatred against another journalist.

Murphy has not even been content at targeting Hugh Jordan online. Another NUJ member, ex-IRA prisoner and writer Anthony McIntyre, has also been in his line of fire.

The Pensive Quill has carried articles critical of Allison Morris’s professional practices. Her partner has rushed to her defence but hardly in a manner becoming to the Irish News’ image of Allison as a serious, senior impartial journalist in Northern Ireland.

Rounding on McIntyre and elevating himself into some sort of super republican judge of all things republican, Murphy wrote in the public comment section of The Pensive Quill: “You met with Owen Patterson to grovel about your case – to the secretary of state of united kingdom – that’s republican?”

Murphy evidently felt that by raising the Boston College tapes case with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, McIntyre was somehow betraying republicanism.

In case his ‘you’re no republican’ claims weren’t fully understood, Murphy repeated them again – in capital letters – adding “REPUBLICAN MY BALLS”.

In yet another tirade of tirade of abuse, Murphy boasted that McIntyre had been “shunned by the republican movement many years ago”, was hiding “behind a computer down South”, and was “grovelling” to the NUJ. He told McIntyre: “Get a life, u sad bastard! I have a number for Teresa Villers if u need a shoulder to cry on because of ur mistakes.” 

Then Murphy stooped unbelievably low. In a despicable comment about the paternity of McIntyre’s children, he wrote: “Look after ur kids ohh that’s right they aren’t urs!” In the eyes of this youth worker, children are obviously legitimate targets in his online onslaughts.

If this is the level of intelligence of the person that Allison Morris chooses as her life partner, it’s no wonder that some of her stories are so idiotic and off the mark. Her judgement is surely questionable.

Last year, Allison Morris reported an ONH fantasy claim to have carried out a mortar attack on police in West Belfast. The attack was later shown never to have happened

Allison has never explained exactly why she didn’t adequately verify the ONH claim before rushing to print and to relay it to readers as a factual incident that had definitely occurred.

The Irish News’ journalist hardly covered herself in glory when she interviewed Dolours Price at a time when Price was undergoing psychiatric care at a Dublin hospital. Allison refused the family’s request to end the interview because of Dolours’ medical condition.

The family then spoke to Irish News management. When the newspaper reached an agreement with them   –  understandably excercising caution in how it treated the story and only printing parts of it  –  Allison took the tapes/story to her friend and former Andersonstown News colleague, Ciaran Barnes of the Sunday Life, who published an unrestrained account.

As both a journalist and a human being, this was hardly an example of ethical behaviour. Allison’s actions ended up setting in motion the whole Boston College saga which has seriously damaged source protection and oral history.

But the Irish News journalist learned no lesson from it all and has continued in her own inimitable bulldozing style. 

After her journalistic practices previously drew criticism on The Pensive QuillAllison went to the NUJ with a seemingly wholly made up claim that the criticism had placed her life in danger from dissident republicans.

She produced no proof of this whatsoever. Indeed, the claim was so baseless that it was laughable. While Allison was claiming grave threats to her life, anyone taking an even cursory glance at the Irish News could see she was in no danger. 

She was interviewing both grassroots and senior dissident republicans and she was on the ground covering dissident republican riots and protests. No-one was refusing to talk to her, let alone threatening her life. Allison’s actions led the NUJ to initially suspend Anthony McIntyre. 

Thankfully, the union saw sense in the end. Last week, the NUJ overturned its original decision, McIntyre was re-instated in the union and Allison’s complaint was rejected. 

Bristling from defeat, Allison set about digging herself an even bigger hole. She went onto a US blog to explain how she had regretfully not been able to attend the NUJ appeal hearing in London which threw out her complaint “because of work commitments – July is one of my busiest months”. 

She also cited financial reasons: “We had to fund the trip ourselves including flights and hotels, as a single parent I couldn’t justify the expense.”

The problem for Allison was that this account was completely contradicted by her own tweets. At the time of the NUJ hearing, Allison was leaving Glasgow after attending a Celtic/Cliftonville match. So much for work commitments and financial constraints. 

Yet again Allison Morris and the truth were on different sides of the track. Not that her own departures from ethical behaviour have ever stopped the Irish News journalist moralising to others.

At the Amnesty event, she was pontificating on how journalists were more at risk now than during the Troubles. She was also in full holier-than-thou flow on the US blog.

Lecturing others on journalistic ethics, she opined: “Freedom of speech does not mean being able to say what you like about who you like regardless of how untrue, dangerous, defamatory it is. We all have moral and social constraints placed upon us to stop language being used that is dangerous and puts the lives of others at risk.”

Allison was yet again preaching in this week’sIrish News about “lunatics” peddling “their warped” views on social networking sites. It’s a subject of which anyone in her position with an iota of intelligence would steer clear.

But in the column, “Social networks an ideal platform for extremists”, Allison marches on wagging the fingers at others. Referring to loyalist internet posts “full of hatred and intolerance”, she declared: “Now crazies, obsessives and bigots can reach a much larger audience without having to leave their bedroom or remove their tinfoil hats.”

To have the temerity to lecture loyalists and others whom she doesn't like, while her own partner is peddling his warped views on the internet, is remarkable.

For the sake of her own credibility, Allison is best advised to ensure Fernando Murphy stops his thuggish and intimidating behaviour. Because to continue preaching about media ethics as your partner menaces other journalists goes way beyond having a brass neck.

1 comment:

  1. Alfie this is the one Squire Doran really wants suppressed so good on you helping to disperse it even more widely