Credit Where Credit is Due

A Revisit to the Irish Mail

I recently wrote a piece for the Hand in Hand charity in which I vented a lot of displeasure towards an article that had appeared in the Irish Daily Mail.  There’s little point in going over it again as you can find that piece on this website.  Suffice to say that despite a wonderful reply from the newspaper—which was printed here in its entirety—I felt and do feel that in the case of that article this view was justified.

It was not an article that came easy to me since, as I pointed out in it, I’m an admirer of that particular newspaper.  As an unrepentant media junkie I read everything I can get my hands on; but the Mail in particular is tDaily Mail 001he one I go out of my way to pick up.  I’ve never understood the sometimes very bitter bile directed towards it in both its British and Irish incarnations.  I just never get that.  It seems to me (and it is something that I’m simply repeating here from the original piece) that it has at times taken on subjects that no one else was interested in touching.  I’ve also mentioned this in various publications over the years, as both of my readers plus my sainted old mother will attest to.

The Mail quite often does long pieces of real substance that you can get your teeth into, rather than brief fly-bys that tell you the basics and nothing else.  Look at how much solid information someone like John O’Keeffe gets into a piece.  I often find myself shaking my head in disagreement; yet I still always turn to his articles on his too-seldom appearances.

I’m going to just add that I also have a soft spot for their columnist Ronan O’Reilly.  He is often trenchant, more than often hilarious and if you haven’t checked him out then by all means do so.  The chances are that you’ll find that he is writing exactly what you have been thinking!

All of this lengthy preamble is by way of saying that after putting up my criticism of a Mail article only weeks ago, they then go and produce one of the most eye-catching and informative lay-outs relating to a cancer story that you are likely to come across this side of next November. 

On the front page of their issue for Thursday November 7 the Mail didn’t even attempt to approach with caution.  It simply rolled up its sleeves, grabbed us by the shoulders and went in feet first with the front page headline of:  CANCER CHILDREN PAY THE PRICE OF REILLY’S FAILURE. Daily Mail 002

Blunt; brutal; to the point; takes no prisoners.  If you have the slightest interest with or connection to children’s cancer and how invisible it generally is in today’s busy, busy world then you will have immediately bought a copy. 

“The revelation [of children being forced to wait for chemotherapy because of cutbacks] follows an unprecedented joint warning from the country’s most senior hospital chiefs that health cuts are putting patient safety at risk.

“Their intervention has piled renewed pressure on James Reilly, with Enda Kenny being forced once again to defend his beleaguered Health Minister in the Dail.”

The reader is asked to turn to page six where he/she in fact finds another two full pages of coverage.  Jennifer Carpenter of Hand in Hand is quoted as saying that:  “The idea that there is a possible four-day waiting period is quite simply an unconscionable added burden on families who are surely suffering enough.”

In fact we can go farther and say that sadly it is not much of a surprise.  It’s actually pretty indicative of the manner in which children’s cancer tends to be so appallingly unrepresented; and the fact that four of our most senior hospital chiefs have felt the need to take the extraordinary step of writing to Director General Tony O’Brien is encouraging, yet at the same time frightening, in that it suggests there are underlying problems that we are not aware of.

Going back to the outstanding Mail coverage, those two inside pages carried several important side bars that gave extra snippets of related information. It also contained a hugely informative section that detailed the spending and waiting lists for Tallaght Hospital, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, St. James’s and the Mater.

It would be hard to ask for much more but we got it anyway.  Directed to page twelve we then find an almost full-page article by Professor John Crown that is both perceptive and stinging.  If I could just quote very briefly from his observations:

“I nail my colours to the mast.  Like the majority of Irish citizens I am a social democrat.  I believe in a humane society where access to health care should be determined by need, not by ability to pay.

“I also know that health care is not delivered in a vacuum, and that every euro spent on the health system is a euro not available to fund other necessary public programmes in social welfare or education.

“Our health system therefore needs to be efficient.  It needs to eliminate waste.  But despite year after year of cuts, it is still wasteful and inefficient; substantial savings could yet be made.

“For years, services have been trimmed from the healthcare system, and I fear that in this coming year, the cuts will be not applied to the fat, but to the muscle instead.”  [Underlines are mine.]

Suffice to say that if you castigate a paper for what you perceive to be an unhelpful article then common decency demands that you likewise draw attention to that same newspaper when it gives a superb piece of coverage, as the Irish Daily Mail did last week.

Kudos from Hand in Hand to their press team in general and to Health Editor Petrina Vousden in particular, who penned the majority of the coverage.

NB: One small clarification:  Hand in Hand isn’t a children’s cancer charity in the west; it is the only one in the west.

By Charley Brady – email: