Frank Connolly and his trial by media

For those of you who don’t know the situation regarding Frank Connolly and Minister Michael McDowell, Gavin’s Blog sums it up quite well here.
As it stands neither side of the argument is without fault. Frank Connolly has refused to say where he was during the period that the accusations are based, saying that once the DPP forwards a case against him he will state his defence. Michael McDowell on the other hand has admitted to passing on information to an Irish Independent journalist but has said that this was in the public domain anyway. He has also faced criticism for biasing any possible case and using his Dail Privilege to avoid any legal action under libel laws.
As the dust settles on this situation, for the time being at least, the real consequences of the whole incident become apparent. It is at this point irrelevent that Michael McDowell has taken advantage of his position to attack Connolly. While it is important to find out if this attack was personal or really in the interest of national security it is not something that can be addressed until both sides decide to come clean, something that is unlikely to happen. What the Minister has undeniably ensured, however, is that Frank Connolly will never have to face a judge to answer these accusations. While no case was imminent any future evidence will be useless unless it is so damning that Connolly is forced to admit guilt. While McDowell has done no worse than some Journalists in making this information public, he has still broken the rules of his job. Journalists are expected to unearth the truth and bring matters of public interest to the public. Ministers are supposed to act on the behalf of the public and in their best interests; making that information public may have been the right thing to do for the public but it wasn’t his job to do it. If he wished to act as a source to a journalist that would be his decision, many ministers have and will, but he has taken it upon himself to make the claims.
So, be it his intention or not, McDowell has now forced a trial by media upon this case. Newspapers and other media outlets are printing the comments (or lack thereof) from both sides and the public are now forming their opinions. Depending on their political persuasion or choice of newspaper their opinions may be altered somewhat but eventually a general viewpoint will be formed in favour of one side or the other.
With enough public pressure either McDowell or Connolly would be forced to resign their position, or at least face a future of mistrust and derision; as it stands the forums are alive with debate surrounding the controversy.
So in the greater scheme of things what does this mean? Well it ensures that no fair trial will ever be heard, the fate of both men could rest on a journalist with a bone to pick or on some other unaccountable outside influence. It makes the court system somewhat of a joke as McDowell has escaped any penalties for his comments and Connolly has escaped any possible legal action against him. As clichéd as it is to say this, nobody comes out the winner and everybody loses something.

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