Thursday, March 09, 2006

# Posted 1:04 PM by Patrick Belton  

FACT CHECKING CNN: Just one of those small inaccuracies that always pop up when you read CNN coverage of something you actually know about. In a story about a joint Garda/PSNI raid upon Slab Murphy this morning (well done), CNN identifies Sinn Féin as 'the IRA-linked party that represents most of Northern Ireland's Catholics.' This is to give them more credibility than, maybe, they're due. Sinn Féin drew more seats and votes than the SDLP in both the 2001 Westminster election (175,933 to 169,865) and the 2003 Stormont election (162,758 to 117,547), and in the 1998 Stormont polls were trounced by SDLP (177,963 to 142,858). Partially this is the plight of the SDLP after Hume's departure from the political scene, Mark Durkan not yet having come into his own; partially SF's greater credibility post Good Friday. But given that in the last public opinion survey I'm off-handedly aware of (Milward Brown Ulster, admittedly last March) SF and the SDLP both come even with 20 per cent, and the (trans-sectarian) Alliance draws at least some Catholic support as well (with 25,372 votes in 2003; not to mention smaller parties like the NI Women's Coalition, Labour NI or the old SF-derived Workers Party), I'm just not seeing how CNN can claim SF represents 'most of Northern Ireland's Catholics'. A small point perhaps, but it's this sort of laziness and sloppy writing that I just notice pops up more and more the closer I read cnn.com.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

Why bother watching CNN at all, you could just make it up yourself.
I think you're being a bit harsh on CNN here. Sinn Fein are clearly the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland adn nobody that I know of here disputes this - even SDLP heads know that they would look ridiculous doing so. THe last Wesminster and Council elections last May would appear to have more authority than the opinion poll you cite - particularly if you want to get semantic on the word 'represent'. Sinn Fein got almost a quarter of the entire vote in NI, while the SDLP stuttered at around 17.5%. To get 25 %, given that the Catholic electorate can't be in excess of 45% , means that Sinn Fein and CNN have a right to make such claims.
It's a good point, anon. I suppose it's also partly that 'IRA-linked party that represents most of Northern Ireland's Catholics' transfers some majoritarian legitimacy on the IRA, too. The closest i can come to finding public opinion data touching on support for the IRA in NI is Hayes and McAllister's conference paper from 2003, which would have 58 per cent of Catholics expressing 'no sympathy', compared to 34.6 expressing 'a little' and 7.4 'a lot.' You can quibble with question wording in that study, but the picture that comes out is a lot less Catholic support for the IRA than the CNN phrase might have led you to believe.
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