Anton Mc Nulty and Neill O’Neill
‘DISGRACEFUL’ and an ‘affront to democracy’ is how two Mayo politicians yesterday described the media’s treatment of the candidates running in the presidential election.
Speaking to The Mayo News during a survey of elected Fianna Fáil representatives in the county, both Deputy Dara Calleary and Councillor Al McDonnell were furious in their condemnation of the media’s coverage. Both men also said they were afraid that on-going public ‘witch-hunts’ could deter people from participating in political contests in the future.
The 2011 presidential election has been one of the most closely scrutinised campaigns to date. No candidate has escaped the glare of press attention, with almost-daily revelations about their public, private and professional lives appearing in the media. Ballina TD and former Minister of State, Dara Calleary told The Mayo News that he has found some of the media’s coverage of the seven candidates personal lives to be ‘depressing’.
“The media campaign during this election has been utterly disgraceful. The seven candidates have had the courage to put their names on the ballot paper and the media tends to think it is its role to destroy them personally, which is really depressing,” he said.
Veteran Castlebar-based county councillor Al McDonnell was equally appalled by what he sees to be the poor treatment of the candidates.
“It is disturbing what has happened in this campaign,” he said.
“Some of the potentially finest candidates we could have produced countrywide for this office were afraid to go forward as they didn’t want to come under the extraordinary personal scrutiny that the candidates had to endure.
“It didn’t matter how far something went back in the past or what the relevance it had to being a good president. The fact that no human being is perfect didn’t matter, and all faults of every nature were magnified and misrepresented daily.
“They even had a go at Gay Mitchell saying he doesn’t smile and demonised him for it.
It was totally ridiculous behaviour that went way overboard. This attitude from the media and commentators this time round will dilute the quality of all candidates in future elections. It is a serious threat to democracy.”
This particular fear was echoed by Deputy Calleary. “The Presidential elections have always been hotly contested but here everyone has been attacked … There has to be scrutiny of candidates but these sort of relentless attacks will put people off in the future, and that is not a good thing. When the election is over and we reflect back on it, I don’t think the media will come out looking too good,” the Ballina-based deputy said.