Guardian/Observer Ed Vulliamy on Irish TV3: “And what worries me with this is okay this is the cops you know having a piss up at Christmas time courtesy of Shell and them unable to deny it.”
Unofficial Transcript of a Vincent Brown interview of Ed Vulliamy broadcast 3 April 2014 during Tonight with Vincent Browne on TV3,
VB: Ed Vulliamy who is really a very distinguished journalist with The Guardian and The Observer in London he has done really wonderful reporting from Bosnia, Mexico and elsewhere round the world. He came to Ireland recently and he reported.. he has an interest in the Corrib Gas issue and he … we interviewed him about this and he has interesting things to say about the Corrib issue and also about Irish journalism. Lets have a look.
ED: Where I grew up in journalism and I don’t mean where geographically… I mean how… if a massive multinational behemoth wants to come ashore with “attractive” licensing arrangements and so on and ram a pipeline into a fishing community and a farming community and to do so backed up by a police force and private security that teat people and beat people in that way, that’s a story. Well I mean that’s why we went into journalism to do this stuff. And as soon as I saw The Pipe I want to meet these people. What what more extraordinary image than a man bombing up and down on his fishing boat trying to lay lobster pots relaying radio messages to the biggest pipe laying vessel in the world. This is… this… is.. its epic in its way.
Why has it been not covered and why has it been covered in the way it has is anybody’s guess but if it is to do with the influence of corporate pubic relations and the cogency should we say to use the polite term of Shell within this kind of nexus that connects the media the corporate world and politics in this country, then that might go someway to explaining things and this is a general and wider point and this is what worries me is this sort of I think extremely unhealthy nexus this this this affiliation between corporate public relations on the one hand, political public relations and politics as corporate as PR on the one hand and the media not really not doing its job… we’ve journalists… we can’t go around trusting people for Christs state…
VB: And then of course that other nexus between the police force and the media or in our case the Garda and the media
ED: Yeah, I mean just looking at it as a reporter here is… it happens to be probably the most beautiful sea board in Europe … here is a giant coming in… here are the fisher and here are the farmers here are the fisherman and so on… they take it on… the the brutality was filmed… its there to see… the role the private security fills is there to see… the willingness of these people to go to jail to take the violence… their almost… its not carefree its almost devil may care attitude to getting physically hurt… I mean this is one the most important stories of its kind in Europe.. there is no film to record the equivalent of the anti-globalization demonstrations – the situations in Greece or Ukraine may produce one… I don’t know..
But I mean the nexus seems to be… the nexus as I understand it seems to be one whereby what the oil company says is taken to be a description of what is going on… what corporate public relations does and is is to represent the vested interests of the company, of the corporation, nothing else… now that doesn’t mean that their lying… it… sometimes they might do… it doesn’t mean that their telling the truth… sometimes they might do… They may be to use that phrase that came out of the Spycatcher trial… they may be being economical with the truth… it doesn’t matter which… what they are doing is being paid high salaries by huge companies to advance the interests of that company… a bit like the spokesman for a political party I mean if it turns out that party A is right and party B is wrong then the spokesperson for party B is not going to say that A was right. That’s the situation and what we have is their word their account of things being taken as gospel by journalists whose job is not to believe these people but to establish facts
VB: You were the journalist who broke the story about Shell funding a drinks party for the Gardia at Christmas… how did you come to get that story?
ED: The idea of sort of Shell deciding to order a contractor to delivery tens of thousands of Euro’s worth of booze to the cops at Christmas.. well it happened within a context, it happens with the context of the brutality that you can see in the film… it happens within the context of the UN Special Rapporteur’s saying excessive force had been used by the police against peaceful demonstrators.. that’s the context… that’s nasty… that’s sick… Its a bagatelle in the grand scheme of things but its an indicative bagatelle as to what kind of people we are talking about in the police force and in the company.
I actually didn’t break the story… it was there for anybody to see on a Shell watchdog website and on Shell to Sea’s website… there it was… it was out there… I just happened to see it pick up I thought it was interesting… and you know I put it to the Garda.. to the Garda Síochána and I put it to Shell and you go into this fudging… We held an inquiry blah blah blah we did this… No I didn’t ask this… that’s not what I asked… did this happen or not is what I asked… and they kept saying we have held an inquiry… no no no… can I ring you up? Are the officers concerned denying this or not? We have held an inquiry, we found no evidence… No that is not my question… my question was did this happen or did these people make it up??? and they won’t answer that… they won’t deny it.
And I ended up by saying if you don’t ring me up and tell me you are deny this I’m going to take it as being the truth
And so we published…
Shell was the same you know… Did this happen? We had an inquiry (there was an investigation)… or can I see the investigation? no you can’t.. Can I interview the person who conducted it in The Hague, Mrs Van Dam? No you can’t. Well I am not going to take that as a denial.
That, that’s the nexus.
And what worries me with this is okay this is the cops you know having a piss up at Christmas time courtesy of Shell and them unable to deny it.
But but you know, so far one worker has died on that project… a young German engineer… we pray and we hope there won’t be any more but what if do get Niger Delta or even an echo of that going on in County Mayo… what if there is an explosion… what is something awful does go on does happen… we hope not please God… we get some instinct of the fudging and Amnesty International is not gospel they often get things right and according to them and when it came to the real catastrophes in the Niger Delta, Shell were not truthful about the oil spillages – they called it sabotage – it turned out not to be… so its not the medias job to take what the company says is a description of the facts.. they are paid to advance the companies interest and nothing else.
VB: That was Ed Vullaimy.. it would be great to have him on the programme regularly wouldn’t it.
UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT ENDS
As of 16 April 2014 the interview can currently still be viewed here