Journalist takes down 'vacuous talking head' in TV clash about the Good Friday Agreement

PUBLISHED: 11:49 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:55 04 October 2019

Spiked writer and commentator Ella Whelan was called out for 'panglossian nonsense' about the Good Friday Agreement by OpenDemocracy journalist Peter Geogeghan. Picture: STV

Spiked writer and commentator Ella Whelan was called out for 'panglossian nonsense' about the Good Friday Agreement by OpenDemocracy journalist Peter Geogeghan. Picture: STV

STV

An exasperated journalist clashed with what he called a "vacuous talking head" on TV after it was suggested that we stop "clutching our pearls" over the Good Friday Agreement.

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Panellist and OpenDemocracy editor Peter Geogeghan lost his patience with Spiked writer and commentator Ella Whelan for offering what he termed "panglossian nonsense" as justification for endangering the historic truce.

The clash came as part of a discussion of the ongoing Brexit negotiations on STV's Scotland Tonight when Whelan said that questioning the historic truce between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was all part of a healthy process of "asking difficult questions".

She claimed that as someone "from an Irish family" she claimed that many Irish people do question the agreement, and that doing so is healthy because "the democratic genie has been let out of the bottle" - presumably by the Brexit plebiscite.

But she was stopped in her tracks by Geogeghan who had clearly decided she was arguing in bad faith.

"Three and a half years of this panglossian - I won't swear, but - absolute nonsense," said the journalist, who is Irish.

"To quote a famous politician it feels like humbug.

"What you're doing here is trotting out these tropes. 'Yes, I've met a few people who don't like the Good Friday Agreement, I've met a few people who don't like the European Union, X Y and Z'."

He accused the commentator of ducking the debate by instead "trotting out lines", and said it's "very boring, actually".

Whelan, looking clearly caught out, tried to rebut him by saying "I'm sorry I'm boring you, I'm sorry democracy bores you", but Geogeghan carried on.

He said: "You have nothing concrete to offer."

During the clash the fellow panellists looked on in what appeared to be mild surprise and enjoyment of the takedown.

The preservation of the peace achieved by the Good Friday Agreement is a red line in the EU's Brexit negotiations in order to prevent any sort of border infrastructure dividing the two nations.

Both Boris Johnson and Theresa May have failed to get MPs to agree to the 'backstop', a measure designed to prevent border infrastructure if the UK and the EU do not have a satisfactory customs and regulatory agreement after a transition period post-leaving the EU.

MPs surrounding the prime minister have since been accused of riding roughshod over the Republic of Ireland's and the EU's concerns by supporting proposed alternative arrangements that the EU has rejected as ineffective.

WATCh: 'Ireland owes this country nothing' - Bonnie Greer on Question Time on Brexit negotiations

After a tweet of the clip was watched more than 185,000 times, Geogeghan said: "Haha if you ever wanted to see me get really exasperated with a vacuous Spiked talking head on live TV now's your chance."

Spiked is an ostensibly leftwing publication that emerged from the same network of writers who founded the disgraced magazine Living Marxism, including Claire Fox who today is a Brexit Party MEP.

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