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3 November 2014

You can depend on 'Red Roy' Greenslade to support Sinn Fein

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian's media commentator

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian's media commentator, weighed in to the Mairia Cahill controversy last week and succeeded in uniting commentators who are not natural bed-fellows.

Ed Moloney, Anthony McIntyre, Eamonn McCann and Malachi O'Doherty, could you move over a bit and make room for me?

What has enraged us and many others has been that a smug newspaper that believes it occupies the high moral ground allows this man to denounce others as having an anti-Sinn Fein agenda, while not admitting that he has been a friend of the Provos since the 1980s.

As Ed Moloney put it in his blog (thebrokenelbow.com), with the same certainly as the sun rising and setting, whenever Gerry Adams is in trouble, Greenslade "can be relied upon to come riding to the rescue".

Last week - faithfully following the Sinn Fein line that Mairia's brief association with republican dissidents rendered her evidence suspect - Greenslade wrote that the BBC NI Spotlight programme "was flawed by being overly one-sided".

What he was "brazenly stating", said Anthony McIntyre on his blog (thepensivequill.am), was that "central to how the public should judge Cahill's claim to have been raped is her politics".

Greenslade didn't give house-room to the possibility that the programme-makers thought her political beliefs irrelevant to whether she was raped or not.

Eamonn McCann reacted in a furious tweet: "Have just seen Roy Greenslade's Guardian piece on Cahill/Adams. Ignorant, contemptible, a disgrace to journalism".

Pointing out that Mairia had broken her silence only when she learned about Gerry Adams' cover-up of his brother Liam's rape of his own daughter, Malachi O'Doherty left a lengthy comment under Greenslade's article: "Roy, this is low. Lower still for being so transparently done in the service of the party."

He finished with: "I never believed I would read such rubbish in the Guardian. Apparently, the only qualification for being a rape victim who deserves sympathy is to be a supporter of Sinn Fein."

Unlike Malachi, I expect nothing better of Roy Greenslade or the Guardian. I've long regarded its editor, Alan Rusbridger, as a sanctimonious twit, who, decades ago, swallowed the Sinn Fein line that anyone who criticises Adams is anti-peace and who, therefore, seems happy to ignore troubling truths about his partisan media commentator.

Memory-jog to Mr Rusbridger. In the late-1980s, when a senior editor at the anti-IRA Sunday Times, Roy Greenslade demonstrated the most dubious of journalistic ethics by also writing under a pseudonym for Sinn Fein's An Phoblacht.

In 1998, in a lecture to the west Belfast faithful, he followed the preposterous Sinn Fein line that in media coverage of Northern Ireland most attention is given to British victims of republican violence and least to victims of loyal violence. (Excuse me. Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson anyone?)

He lives in Donegal, where his close friends include Pat Doherty, intimate colleague of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness over the past four decades, and Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, a Glaswegian who brags about his triumphs in mercilessly hounding Rangers.

And, earlier this year, he provided bail surety for another friend, John Downey, when he was accused of the Hyde Park bombings.

Mind you, Greenslade is not a wholly dependable friend. In the 1980s, I'm told by an ex-colleague that he was seen as so politically extreme that he was known in Fleet Street as "Red Roy".

He says he gave financial contributions to the miners during the disastrous strike of 1984-5, yet, in 1990, as editor of the Daily Mirror under the control of plutocrat Robert Maxwell, he made ill-founded accusations against the miners' leader, Arthur Scargill, for which he later had to offer "the sincerest of apologies".

He's a bit of a weather-vane, is Roy Greenslade. Of course, Greenslade is as entitled to his opinions as anyone else. And, in fairness to him, when asked by the Irish Post, he admitted that he was a "long-time supporter of Sinn Fein".

The problem is the hypocrisy of the Guardian, which merrily covers Ireland without ever disclosing this salient fact about their media commentator - even when he is denouncing others as being anti-Sinn Fein. Is there any hope Rusbridger may remember that he's supposed to care about journalistic ethics?

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards