Bizarre RTE Coverage of Cobh Murder-Suicide Tragedy

Deference to priests.

A man recently released from the Central Mental Hospital,  having been found guilty of a crime but insane, stabs his wife to death, stabs his daughter and then kills himself.

What’s the first thing that crosses your mind there?

The word Why, perhaps?  Why was he released so soon?

And if it’s the first thing that strikes you and me, then we can be certain that a cutting-edge national broadcasting agency will be all over it, asking the hard questions, can’t we?  Why wasn’t this man receiving the psychiatric help he so desperately needed?  Why was he released?  Why wasn’t he under constant supervision in case he experienced another violent episode?  What precisely were the protocols governing his release?  What medication was he on?

You might imagine this was the thrust of RTE’s reporting on the death of Michael Greaney, his wife Valerie and the stabbing of their daughter Michelle, but if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

Instead, RTE led each news bulletin with the information that prayers were being offered.  At 8 am, they quoted a statement from the local Catholic bishop, following up in subsequent bulletins by interviewing a nun and a Catholic priest who was pressed hard by the interviewer to describe how shocked he was, how shocked the community was and what sense of shock hung over Cobh.

Just how shocked are you, Father?  How shocked is everyone?  Are you shocked?

Personally, I’m completely shocked, though I don’t quite know why, since RTE is so prone to this sort of thing, but still, how can we take them seriously as credible journalists when their default position in a case like this is to call a priest for a soundbite? ( A priest who, to his credit, seemed a little repelled by the insistent questions about how shocked he was).

Context is everything, and if this happened to be a once-off aberration, we could probably write it off as poor judgement by an individual editor, but RTÉ doesn’t exist in a vacuum.   This, after all, is the same organisation that cravenly capitulated to legal threats from Catholic ideologues at the beginning of the year, handing them out huge amounts of licence-money to assuage their wounded feelings during the Pantigate affair.

You’d nearly begin to suspect that there was a deep-seated culture of deference to priests in RTE that needs to be scrutinised long and hard.  It’s hard to imagine another news organisation that would open a report on a murder by quoting a bishop.



19 thoughts on “Bizarre RTE Coverage of Cobh Murder-Suicide Tragedy

  1. I completely agree. Time and time again rte fails to report both the facts and context of the case. Reporting on the ground is usually of the ‘find someone local and stick them in front of the camera’. I can understand why early reporting of this case did not cover the details of this mans medical history and there are ways to regret to that sensitively. Still an undue deference to the cloth. Part of the prevailing culture within politics also.

  2. RTE failed to live up to their usual journalistic standards by failing to include a clip of the parish priest saying how shocked, just shocked everyone was, Pascal, a lovely family, Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.

    It’s nearly as bad as Joe forgetting Funny Friday!

  3. Excellent observation Bock. Part of the prevailing culture within Irish society also. Chomsky has been describing this for years. People can’t be switched on all the time and this lazy disinterested time serving journalism takes advantage of that.

  4. RTE is in every sense a disgraced organisation. The only problem is the lack of a critical mass of Irish people who recognise that, their deference to FF is a particular issue, amongst others, the centre of power is safe while RTE goes unchallenged.

  5. Well spotted Bock. This morning on RTE radio i, sometime around 11, there was an interview with an author who was flogging his new book about the present ‘reforming,’ Pope.

    It was like going back 30 years to the good old days. Don’t know who the journalist was, but she was lapping everything up about how wonderful this Pope was and how he was giving integrity back to the Catholic Church blah blah.

    All the horrors of the past were erased. It was like nothing bad ever happened during the time the Catholic Church ran this country. Where do they get these critically impaired, zombie journos from?

  6. it wasn’t too long ago that the RTE logo consisted of a Catholic Christian symbol, the St. Bridget’s cross.
    What sickens my shit about this terrible tragedy, is that RTE has to let everyone know they were Catholic. But even to a certain degree they drop the Catholic word to just Christian but we all know deep down they mean Catholic. Will we ever be free of the church within our national broadcaster and government

  7. You post is thought provoking, Bock. Shock-absorbtion is one emotional function of the mass media. The Irish media go for sentimental stuff when a tragedy happens – what nice unassuming people the victims were, liked by their classmates/club members/church members, how grieving the entire community feels etc. When hard facts are lacking while “garda enquiries are continuing” Irish media fill empty space with sympathetic and shocked comment. By contrast the British tabloid papers and lower market commercial radio stations get straight to the screaming WHY OH WHY anger. And tabloids know how to switch on, ratchet up and then switch off public anger in British journalism. I don’t like the Irish media sentimentality, nor do I like the British tabloid switch-on switch-off mass emotion attitude to shocking tragedies. Both methods are about emotional manipulation, and for me are too close to the Orwellian 1984 scenario.

  8. Maybe consideration of the law for one. Although the Gardai are not seeking anyone this is still a murder case.

    Then there is the consideration of having the media slamming lots of dirt over a family just as they are grieving.

    The story is how mental services have been downgraded. Sensationalising this story with media is not the right way to go.

    Several cases like this have occurred. This should be discussed but obscuring the families names and talking more generally is respectful of everyone and allows more mature discussion.

    There is nothing wrong with mentioning religion if the family are being comforted at the time of death by this, This happens in many countries at the time of tragedies.

    I too noticed this and kinda wondered about its relevance to a national report but look its no harm. They did also report that the effected girls are to receive care from close family.

    I really don’t think RTE are pro religion, very often they are a bit too secular in the context I mean that people should be allowed to be religious if they want to but sometimes that is ridiculed.

    I totally hear what your saying about the coverage missing the concerns you have though. I just think the motivation maybe more humanistic than religious.

  9. I really don’t think RTE are pro religion, very often they are a bit too secular in the context I mean that people should be allowed to be religious if they want to but sometimes that is ridiculed.

    I can’t decide whether that paragraph was the worst of that arse-festering, mind-numbing gibberish.
    Fucking tragic all right.
    Drugs or the dotage has set in.
    It’d take a team of scientists working ’round the clock to figure what’s going on in the brains of some, it really would. Sorry.

  10. Bock I think your logic is completely spot on.

    On the “shocked” topic – yes, I’m always amazed at how many people they can interview to say they are “shocked” ….

    While I fully agree with your logic on the story, perhaps, given the tragedy of the situation for the daughters and other family members concerned, it was not the right time to begin asking those hard questions – and probably no answers would be found at this time anyway.

    You are right that all of these questions need to be answered and perhaps the whole veil of secrecy and “shame” around mental illness needs to be raised….

  11. The Irish Times was been quick off the mark in reporting the number of times the deranged perpetrator was examined, and the professional opinions of the examiners, before a decision was made to release him from the Central Mental Hospital.

  12. Just reading online version of the Indo about the Scottish nurse witj Ebola. 2nd paragraph starts with the words ‘prayers are being said’

  13. Article by Greg Harkin posted at 01.04pm on 31/12/14. Still there as of 3 minutes ago.

  14. How did TV3 News treat the reporting of this multiple-tragedy, by comparison? Thanks.

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