Here, son, all yours
The Irish Times carried a front page ad for the Beacon Hospital group (prop. D O’Brien) yesterday. It goes without saying that this kind of commercial transaction will have no bearing on the paper’s vigorous campaigning to convince its readership of the need for universal health care free at point of delivery.
It will have no bearing on its fearless investigation of the people who profit from the dilapidated state of the public health system.
It will have no bearing on its incisive analysis of the detrimental effects of privatisation on healthcare delivery.
It will have no bearing on the paper’s dogged battle to help its readership understand the relation between austerity policies and the erosion of social rights such as the right to health, and the relation between austerity policies and privatisation. A recent report by the European Parliament -an institution given great scrutiny by the paper- traced the effect of austerity policies in Ireland on various social rights, among them healthcare. It listed all the damage done as a consequence of healthcare cuts, and noted that Ireland has no right to healthcare enshrined in its constitution.
But since the Irish Times has been long in favour of protecting the services depended upon by the poor and weak, since it has long questioned the wisdom of austerity policies and refrained from presenting them as a self-evident necessity, there is no need to be concerned that advertising from the likes of the Beacon Hospital group will affect its editorial independence.
This kind of transaction will have no bearing on its doughty pursuit, in this regard, of Fine Gael Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, and his boss Enda Kenny, who have both made public appearances in recent times opening private healthcare facilities, or the question of what it means, in democratic terms, for government ministers to do such things.
Nor, of course, will it hold back in its questioning of the links between Fine Gael and Denis O’Brien, proprietor of the aforementioned Beacon Hospital group. Suffice to say, its thoroughgoing analysis of the revolving doors between politics and big business, as in the example of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen joining the board of Beacon Hospital, will be unaffected.
It will have no bearing on any of these things, because, as its former editor Geraldine Kennedy told the banking inquiry this week, the Irish Times is an ‘independent newspaper primarily concerned with serious issues for the benefit of the community throughout the whole of Ireland free from any form of personal or of party political, commercial, religious or other control’.
It will have no bearing on any of these things because, as Geraldine Kennedy also pointed out, it stands for ‘the progressive achievement of social justice between people’. And hence it will be unyielding in its highlighting of the dangers for social justice posed by the concentration of resources for the provision of public goods -such as healthcare, water, education and information essential to democratic public debate- in the hands of a few people, for the purposes of profit and power.
And, just as its property advertising concerns never prevented it from challenging the consensus view of policy and business elites that housing was a commodity just like any other, its sale of advertising to private health providers will have no effect on the broad readership of democratically-minded citizens who strongly support social justice and who recognise, by dint of the paper’s long history of emphasising this fact, that healthcare is a right worth fighting for, not a commodity to be bought and sold.
One would have to be a conspiracy theorist to think anything else.