He was hardly a wet week into his leadership of Fine Gael when his propensity for keeping Paddy in the dark was very publicly exposed. In September 2002, the future Taoiseach referred to the revered African liberation hero, Patrice Lumumba, as a 'nigger' in a racist joke. Kenny made his sick racist slur at a function in Dublin during a speech to party workers and journalists. In a grown up democracy, every hack in the room would've had the story in print the following morning and the party faithful would have kicked Kenny out on his ass but that didn't happen. Instead, Kenny asked the journalists present not to report his comments and in a shocking affront to the idea of a free press most of them agreed to stay silent. The Sunday Indo broke ranks and printed the story which resulted in righteous anger from anti-racist groups in Ireland and Britain that Kenny was able to keep his job. A spokesperson for the Commission for Racial Equality said it was 'inconceivable' that a prominent politician in Britain would use such language and still retain his position. It is also inconceivable that the British press would have agreed em masse to conceal the racist rantings of a political party leader.
A dozen years on and Kenny doesn't need to ask Journalists to keep his faux pas from the Irish public. For the most part they willingly self-censor, terrified that they might be plucked away from the tightly controlled drip drip of printable information selectively released from the government information teat. The 'Free Press' is forever lost to the Irish people. Any challenge to the status quo is ruthlessly suppressed and excellent journalists like Gemma O'Doherty are cast into the wilderness.
The new frontier for free speech is social media. Facebook and Twitter are awash with credible stories that never make it to traditional media. Recently, a small group of independent elected representatives asked the public to contact them with their experiences of corruption and malpractice. To say that they have been overwhelmed with the response they have received is a gross understatement. Many of these shocking stories have been inexplicably ignored for years by traditional media.
Currently, the Taoiseach who should never have been, is successfully repeating his unjustifiable media censorship online. The Governments Communications Unit is Kenny's 'Big Brother' for monitoring social media. It was established in 1997 by Fianna Fail and when in opposition Enda Kenny called the unit "those Rumpelstilskins of political spin who turn pure straw into gold", he claimed it was responsible for helping the Fianna Fail Government to "rewrite history". Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte described the unit as a "Fianna Fail espionage unit funded by the taxpayer to monitor what its political opponents are saying about Fianna Fail".
Like much of Kenny's hollow vitriol whilst parked on the opposition benches, he has backtracked on his criticism of the Communications Unit. Earlier this year it was reported that Government sought and was granted permission to breach its own public-service staffing moratorium in order to hire two extra staff for the Communications Unit. Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin approved the expenditure for Fine Gael's taxpayer funded espionage unit and it appears that it was money well spent.
Following the Taoiseach's Endawhackery address to the US Chamber of Commerce where he claimed "If you got a problem, if you have an issue or anxiety or concern or a proposition or proposal, I want to hear it. My number is a public number you can call me anytime", I tweeted (re-tweeted actually) his public mobile phone number which was first published online in the Fine Gael website and is currently listed in an online directory called redbook.ie. Within minutes I was suspended from Twitter. It took three days for Twitter to confirm that I had been suspended following a report that I had tweeted Enda Kenny's private and confidential information. The Taoiseach's phone number was not private or confidential, it was, and thanks to Fine Gael's online publication of it, will forever be A PUBLIC NUMBER.
Once I had received Twitters confirmation I wrote a blog highlighting what had happened. Unlike the censored tweet which had gone practically unnoticed, the blog garnered widespread attention in Ireland and around the globe. Thus far it has received almost as many hits as Kenny received first preference votes in the last General Election.
For the most part, those online have been more than supportive of my efforts to expose Kenny's attempt to re-classify his publicly available mobile number as private and confidential but I have been subjected to some particularly nasty and insulting attacks. One such milder example came from a journalist for a west coast newspaper. He re-tweeted the blog with the comment "This guy thinks his twitter a/c was suspended unfairly?". I replied to him and pointed out that the telephone number was in the public domain, published online by FG and contained in an online directory. He replied with "It contravenes Twitter rules and is general asssholery". Apart from the poor spelling, this comment was indicative of the mainstream media attitude. Twitter does have rules about private and confidential information but is also very specific that to be considered private and confidential, the information in question must be 'NON-PUBLIC'. I suggested to the so-called journalist that perhaps he should fact check before putting his personal opinion forward as an established fact. He insisted that Kenny's publicly listed number was 'personal' and my tweeting of it was assholery. I don't know which was more worrying, that this journalist was also a lecturer of Journalism to upcoming would-be hacks or that his comment was re-tweeted by an editor in a generally well respected national newspaper. The hypocrisy being that if they actually believed that Kenny's number was private, confidential or personal then they too were guilty of breaking rules by re-tweeting the blog. It seems that the traditional media hasn't moved beyond its 2002 willingness to keep Paddy in the dark. It makes one wonder who the real assholes are, the racist censor, the complicit media or the very ordinary citizen who challenged them.
For 20 days I remained suspended from Twitter despite numerous e-mails from me rightly protesting that I had not broken any rules. In order to be un-suspended Twitter was demanding that I accept that Kenny's number was private and confidential. I, of course, refused point blank to do so. On the 19th day I wrote another blog on the subject.
Twitter rules on who can make a complaint about the publication of private and confidential information are unambiguous - "If the private information you’re reporting is not your own, please note that you must have documentation that you’re authorized to act on behalf of the person whose confidential information is posted".
Kenny's denial raises very serious questions for Twitter, not least of which are - Was I suspended on foot of forged documentation? Is there someone impersonating the Taoiseach? or is Twitter taking it upon itself to censor tweeters to benefit 'friendly' political leaders?
Before forming an opinion on whether these questions are far fetched, consider the 'investigation' Twitter claimed to have carried out. As I said earlier, I was not the original tweeter of the Taoiseach's publicly available telephone number. As with all the best Twitter coups, it was a spontaneous collaboration involving other tweeters. @outhalf tweeted the number and I edited and re-tweeted the number with an inoffensive quip within minutes. I then asked @horseymatilda to make up an amusing poster to go with the tweet. @horseymatilda is a genius when it comes to amusing posters. 'Tilda obliged and tweeted the now globally re-tweeted poster -
In deleting my tweet, Twitter has set a very dangerous precedent not only for tweeters but for all social medial platforms and social media users. It would seem that Twitter has undermined the very concept of the internet as a forum for the sharing of publicly available information. This Paddy and thousands upon thousands of Paddy's from all over the globe really do want to know what the story is with this Endawhackery censorship.