A reply to Kevin Meyer
2008-07-31 10:30:17 -

In his Irish Independent column on 23 July, Kevin Myers attacked Metro Éireann.

As well as insinuating that this newspaper encourages ‘thought policing’, he also took the highly questionable step of publishing the questions submitted by Metro Éireann in his column – a move all the more incomprehen- sible given the ordinariness of the correspondence. Now CATHERINE REILLY , deputy editor of Metro Éireann, reminds Kevin Myers of their previous encounter – and how, far from from being propagandists without the highest journalistic credentials of balance, objectivity and the capacity to break news, his colleagues in Independent News and Media have come to rely on this newspaper for some of their own ‘scoops’…


You may not remember me, or our last correspondence, but I do. And following your recent contention that Metro Éireann newspaper somehow acts as a form of ‘thought police’, I thought it was time we get reacquainted.

We were first in contact when you submitted an article to Metro Éireann’s annual magazine, Ireland In 2005, on our invitation. The article – completely uncensored by us – warned of the dangers of multiculturalism, and how the ‘debate’ on immigration was being stifled by those only too quick to shout ‘racist’ at anyone raising valid concerns. 

I also contacted you requesting a quote for an article I was writing for Metro Éireann’s annual the following year, on that same ‘debate’, and how it had been dominated by the two extremes – the ‘politically correct’ brigade on one side, and those accused of advocating a ‘close the doors completely’ approach on the other. 

Former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell launched that magazine – watched by activists of Residents Against Racism (a group more concerned with deportations than racism). They attempted to drown out his speech, but didn’t succeed. 

I believe that during this last correspondence, when you attacked Metro Éireann as being some sort of ‘cultural diversity’ propaganda vehicle, I outlined to you a number of stories we had been publishing which could certainly be deemed to negatively reflect on immigration and its effects. You then admitted that you rarely read the publication. I believe you apologised. To refresh your memory, the recent articles I mentioned (at time of correspondence) were on a riot at an asylum seeker accommodation centre in Cork, and a big story about a Muslim school being probed over financial irregularities. The latter was picked up by your very own Independent News and Media and splashed all over the front page of the Sunday Independent.

Glad we could be of service. I also pointed out to you that, having written that particular story in Metro Éireann, I was now being branded an Islamophobe by certain people. You said that this was very disturbing. It was – but that’s our job.

And now, once again, you have decided to comment on what you’d like to think Metro Éireann is, because it suits your agenda. First of all, your references to the newspaper in your 23 July column in the Irish Independent are littered with, what in my mind, are the worst type of inaccuracies – the casual kind.

For your information, Metro Éireann is not a magazine; it is a weekly newspaper that also publishes an annual magazine. A quick look at the paper will reveal that we do not just write only on ‘immigration’. Also, Metro Éireann is not entirely staffed by immigrants – we believe in good journalism and professional standards in newspaper production, not what nationality staffers have on their passports. All of this information is easily obtainable. 

Secondly, we have a free-to-access website (at metroeireann.com), which would have certainly eased any worries you have about Metro Éireann acting as ‘thought police’.

I am sure if you browsed the website, you might find that we broke the recent story about a Muslim man refusing to shake the hands of a female presenter at an awards event – indeed, we broke this story, and our friends in the mainstream media kindly reproduced it, including The Star (Independent News and Media), almost word-for-word and without any credit to us.

Some people in the cultural diversity sector don’t like us for printing this story, but rest assured, it did not cost us one sleepless night.

Or perhaps you might come across another recent story on a Dublin-based Somali woman raising concerns about female genital mutilation (FGM), and how at a recent meeting on the issue, one man voiced his concern that if his daughter did not undergo FGM, the family wouldn’t receive a ‘bride price’ when it came time to marry. This father resides in Ireland. Now we have helped to shame the Somali community, apparently.

But we were just doing our job – and again, a journalist from your very own Independent News and Media (the Irish Independent, this time) rang me to receive a copy of the story, having seen it flagged on our press release. Happy to help.

Another recent story we published on a group of Roma people occupying a vacated house in north county Dublin, from where they journeyed to beg in the city centre, also resulted in a phone call from one of your colleagues within the Independent News and Media group. This time it was the Sunday Tribune, who followed up on it in their following edition. This story is also on our website. Check it out, maybe?

Or perhaps, if you have more time on your hands, you’ll see the article we did on a Lithuanian man in Castlebar who wanted to highlight the poor and illegal driving habits of some of his compatriots, and organised road safety seminars to that effect – although, hands up, on this rare occasion we were following rather than leading (the Sunday Tribune had published it first).

But there are more examples. Ironically, when you published your 23 July article, our edition available at the time carried a story – prominently flagged on the front page – concerning immigrants who take advantage of the social welfare system.

There is a long list of such stories. There is also a long list of stories about immigrants who’ve made good in the community, in sports and politics, and on issues affecting immigrants – and indeed Irish people – when it comes to accessing services such as visas, experiencing racism, workplace problems and integration difficulties. Highlighting such issues is our job. Sometimes, we also show the lighter side of Ireland’s demographic changes. Last week, we ran a piece on a Dublin-based Congolese woman who is set to represent her birth land in the Miss World contest. Who would have thought?

WHEN THE Irish Independent published your article concerning Aids and Africa on 10 July, our subsequent issue carried no story on it. Why? Because you are entitled to voice your opinion, no matter how repugnant some find it. Also, ‘Kevin Myers writes controversial article’ isn’t of particularly unique news value. 

When the Immigrant Council of Ireland issued their press release on the matter, and called for the Garda to investigate you for allegedly inciting racial hatred, we wanted your response. A freelance contributor, who always shows balance in his articles, was directed to get it. He also knew of an imminent response to your article, and quite rightly, was directed to get that too. 

However, you never responded to his request. Instead, we were ‘greeted’ with your article in the Irish Independent the following Wednesday, preposterously and erroneously (spectacularly so, Kevin) linking us to some sort of ‘thought police’ movement. You also ‘kindly’ reproduced our reporter’s questions – questions that were absolutely fair and normal. He also stated that many Africans associated with the paper (by this, he meant readers) were offended by your 10 July piece in the Irish Independent. Yes. And so what? Are you offended that they’re offended?

I also notice that, in your article on 23 July, you paid the head of the Immigrant Council a backhanded compliment when referring to her ‘talents’. Do you move in the same circles? Were you a little afraid to go the whole hog? It is not like you to refrain from causing maximu offence.


Catherine Reilly

TAGS : Kevin Meyer Irish Independent
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