A HARD-hitting speech by Lord David Puttnam, marking his retirement from the House of Lords, addressed ‘the multiple dangers faced by democracy’, as well as the ‘pig ignorance’ of some British legislators about Ireland.
He also likened the professed ignorance of the harm caused by social media giants to the position taken by tobacco barons before the truth of the harmful effects of nicotine was fully known.
Throughout the ‘deeply unpleasant Brexit debates’, the Skibbereen-based film producer (80) said he was forced to watch ministers ‘malevolently twist, turn and posture in parading their prejudices, along with their, at times, downright ignorance.
‘In discussions regarding the Republic of Ireland, and the complexity of finding sustainable post-Brexit solutions, I was staggered at the display of pig-ignorance towards the fundamentals of Irish history, let alone sensitivity towards the reality of cross-border relationships,’ he said.
He continued: ‘As someone who lives just across the Ilen River from the site of what is probably the largest and most recent mass famine grave on these islands, I may well be ultra-sensitive to these issues, but with a few notable exceptions, the level of empathy and understanding on display in both Houses was truly shocking.’
In his speech to the House of Lords last Friday, David Puttnam said power and fear are ‘the two tyrannies’ and that in place of genuine debate there is now ‘a trading of assertions and in place of compelling arguments’ and ‘a dialogue of the deaf, typified by the Government’s refusal to answer serious questions.’
He said this ‘trampling on long held rights and conventions … is why ‘a free and fearless media is essential to democracy.’
Lord Puttnam also commented on ‘the profound societal harm caused by tech-enabled misinformation’ and likened it to ‘capitalism quite literally eating its young.’
He said the principal shareholders of the social media companies know the adjustments that could be made to their algorithms but do nothing to make them safer.
Ending on a positive note, and referencing the success of Skibbereen Rowing Club and coach Dominic Casey, he said the town and its young rowers had shown what can be made possible and inspired a whole new generation.