The change in emphasis in the 3 main Louth newspapers was obvious as media coverage of #ge16 in reached mid point. The difference between Independent Newspapers and The Dundalk Democrat was equally so. Sinn Féin have fallen out of favour with the Independent Group and fare little better with The Democrat.
Louth mainstream papers exclude Sinn Féin as #ge16 reached midpoint. In the penultimate #ge16 editions of the Louth print media, LouthDáilElections2016 found that Sinn Féin received little more than token coverage in the election sections of the papers and little positive was written about them there or beyond.
Casual examination of the print media’s election coverage, and politically related stories in all three newspapers (compared to previous editions), demonstrate that Sinn Féin are being excluded and demonised. Early on in the campaign Sinn Féin received substantial coverage, in particular from The Argus, as well as from other local papers. Things have changed greatly since then. In this weeks penultimate #ge16 edition Sinn Féin go almost unreported in the Election Specials.
So who is getting the attention? It appears to be the Government parties of Fine Gael and Labour as well as Fianna Fáil. This may of course seem normal, as they are the three largest parties in the county in terms of representation, although not in terms of popularity with the electorate according to several credible polls over the last few weeks and months and it must be remembered that in addition to topping the poll in Louth in 2011, Gerry Adams TD was the third highest poll topper in the entire election.
Furthermore, The Green Party, Independent Alliance and Renua feature quite often and are gaining significant centre page coverage in a positive manner. Sinn Féin have been moved to the back pages of the Election Special pages and in the main part of the paper they stand out in a negative manner (see coverage of Chief Executive walkout below).
So in response to all of this we have to ask if Gerry Adams TD was right in his assertions about RTE and the Irish media. In interview with LouthDáilElections2016 he stated “Well the Independent media group are avowedly anti Sinn Féin” and on the Sinn Féin Facebook page on 16 February they claim “Over the past 2 days RTÉ news has refused to broadcast their interviews with Gerry Adams or cover our daily press conferences.”
- Louth media have turned on Sinn Féin.
- Fianna Fáil, Labour and Fine Gael getting all the coverage.
- Increased coverage for Greens, Independent Alliance and Renua.
- People Before Profit and DDI ignored.
- Peter Fitzpatrick TD possibly becoming Minister is based on 2 large ‘IFs” and substantiated by “party sources”.
- Fine Gael’s Dr. James Reilly – former Minister for Health – employed same tactic in Fingal during the 2011 campaign.
- Dundalk Democrat report that the Chief Executive, Fine Gael & Labour walk out of Council meeting.
- Drogheda Independent and The Argus point finger at Cllr Munster in Chief Executive Walkout story.
- NONE of the parties are pressed on any local issue and each article serves as a photo/promotional opportunity.
- Articles focus on Personality NOT Policy or Party, which is hugely important to voters.
- Candidate positions and action (or lack thereof) on Hospitals, Crime, Housing, Water and Jobs continue to be completely ignored.
- Candidates and Political Parties are given photo opportunities.
- NONE of the policies are examined.
- Focus is on Personality. How much do you like this person? AS OPPOSED TO How good is this person for the people & region?
- Voters learn very little about their candidates from these three papers.
Let’s examine further, based on Front Page Stories, Main Inside Story (Chief Executive Walkout) and Election Specials, to see who is getting the coverage and what voters learn.
FRONT PAGE STORIES
The Argus – Enda Kenny & Fine Gael and its all smiles.
The Dundalk Democrat – Attack on Sinn Féin offices. Chief Executive of Louth County Council walks out with her staff.
The Drogheda Independent – RTE Reality TV participant returns from Australia – Appeal to find man missing for 32 years.
MAIN INSIDE STORY
What is interesting about this story is that, The Dundalk Democrat – Louth Chief Executive, Fine Gael & Labour Walkout report “Walkout at Council Meeting” while The Argus report “Remark Leads to Walk-Out”. Punctuation error aside, it is the same story told from two different angles.
The Argus report that Cllr Munster’s fellow Councillors were annoyed that her remark lead to the Chief Executive walking out with her staff – as well as with Fine Gael, Labour and two independent Councillors, and they attacked her for making such a remark. The Argus give one quarter of a page to Cllr Mark Dearey of the Green Party for this purpose, underneath an indignant looking photo of Louth County Council’s Chief Executive Joan Martin. Her photo takes up a further quarter page. Both of these are featured on Page 3 and the entire episode takes up almost the entirety of pages 2 & 3 of The Argus.
The Dundalk Democrat, however, reports that the Louth County Council Chairperson, Cllr Peter Savage, continued the meeting and saw nothing necessarily wrong with Cllr Munster’s remarks. The Dundalk Democrat take the approach that it was the Chief Executive, along with Fine Gael, Labour and two independents that decided to walk out after Cllr Munster put forward a motion calling for a Director of Services to be appointed in Drogheda. Cllr Savage went on to say that he saw nothing wrong with raising such matters and “to stifle people and say you can’t make recommendations is unacceptable.”
It would appear The Argus, which admits to the same timeline and cause and effect as The Dundalk Democrat, decided to report the story with a clear anti-Sinn Féin bias.
The Drogheda Independent does not take up the story until page 21, despite it being a Louth County Council matter, and takes the same anti-Sinn Féin approach as its sister paper, The Argus. Similar again to its sister paper, it gives more than 2/3 of page 21 to this story and attacks Sinn Féin’s Cllr Munster.
ELECTION SPECIALS – Page Space
This table shows how many pages and stories were given to and written about each party.
The stats above, in addition to the Louth County Council walkout story by the Chief Executive, Fine Gael and Labour, demonstrate the political slant of the majority of the print media in Louth. More importantly, and quite sadly, these editions, along with previous election editions, have taught the voters of Louth/East-Meath very little about what their candidates have done, can do and will do. The articles and editions serve as publicity and photo opportunities for all of the candidates. That is, those who are lucky enough to get coverage. We await the content of the ultimate editions.