David Cameron will face one of the most difficult political challenges of his premiership next week when he is given 24 hours to fashion a response to the Leveson report into newspaper malpractice, aware that he risks a massive confrontation with some of his strongest political media allies if he supports proposals for statutory regulation of the press.
Well that doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence as we wait for Leveson to report and much of the media to lie about what he says in order to uphold the integrity of the free press.
And while we wait, here’s an underexplored angle of the whole thing:
Why has News International’s reckless and corrupt behaviour in Ireland been forgotten during all the coverage stateside of the News International bribes and hacking scandal? Have American commentators forgotten so quickly that Martha Pope, one of the most respected civil servants in the Senate and senior aide to Senator George Mitchell was smeared in December 1996 via a concoctedstory about a love affair with former leading IRA man Gerry Kelly?
This story, which the New York Post ran with the headline “Sex Scandal Perils IRA Truce” almost derailed the peace process and Senator Mitchell described it as one of the most despicable things he had ever experienced as a politician. More significantly still, it is clear that the smearing of Martha Pope (and by extension Senator Mitchell himself) was no aberration; no one off event. For it follows a pattern of Irish smear, libel and hacking exploits produced by Murdoch titles based in the UK and Ireland that had the overall effect of casting suspicion on the peace process and those who sought reform of both the security forces in Northern Ireland and its once staunchly pro-British and anti-Catholic institutions.
Well yes: trying to keep a war going and miscellaneous services to Protestant supremacy. Put that on the pile.