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Column: The #GSOC debacle is a war of spin

With a constant flow of leaks, jousting between journalists and politicians, and the resulting war of words spinning out of control, the casualties in the Garda Ombudsman conflict will be high, writes Paul Allen.

Paul Allen

AT BEST IT has been like an episode of Yes Minister. At worst, like a plot line from House of Cards with a chilling subtext.

But as the debacle surrounding the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission rumbles endlessly on the public has been left bewildered and none the wiser.

When Alan Shatter stood resolutely in the Dáil chamber and told the House that Garda whistleblowers did not co-operate with an internal inquiry into penalty point cancellations he seemed confident and well informed.

However, in politics, ‘the truth’ can be a fleeting concept.

Now the Justice Minister is facing intense pressure to amend the Dail record and apologise after it has transpired his statement was incorrect.

Like Yes Minister‘s Jim Hacker

With all political careers ultimately ending in failure, Shatter must now be feeling the chill of discontent among the public and fellow politicians, which may ultimately force him to resign.

Shatter, like Yes Minister’s Jim Hacker, has quickly found out that high political office is a minefield of manipulation, misinformation and strategic leaks.

Every move the Minister of Justice has made as the scandal spins increasingly out of control has been undermined by counter claims and counter leaks. Indeed, such is the disparity in what the different combatants claim is ‘the truth’ the body count in the aftermath of this war of spin will be high.

When watching this drama unfold it would be wise to remember that every source has an agenda, even if that ‘agenda’ at present remains unclear.

Avalanche of misinformation

The devil is in the detail, but in this political storm the facts have been buried under an avalanche of misinformation. It will take time for the rights and wrongs to be uncovered. But in the 24/7 internet-driven media coverage, time is no longer something politicians feel they have.

Fianna Fail has smelt blood and is rattling the cage of the Government at every opportunity with dossier after dossier highlighting yet more scandals surrounding the case. While the media is constantly on the look out for others who will point the finger of blame and undermine the position of the Government and Gardai.

In the face of such an onslaught the only ally a politician can fully rely on is the truth. This is easier said than done, however, with political adversaries, journalists and the public demanding answers.

Even if sometimes the answer is “I don’t know,” politicians still get caught up in trying to spin themselves out of trouble.

Spin is now politicians’ worst enemy

With constant media coverage and social media empowering everyone to be news source, the truth will eventually come out. And when the dust settles it will be all too clear who has truly been to blame.

But as the war wages on, it still seems that politicians have yet to realise that nowadays spin is their worst enemy. This is despite the fact that, as Buddha is claimed to have said, there are three things that cannot be hidden long — the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.

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