Kill the messenger?

There’s an old saying – ‘if you can’t deal with the message, deal with the messenger.

Usually it’s a strategy by people who are guilty of something, or who are inadequate or who have made a mistake and need to hide it somehow. 

Sadly, as a messenger, I was the brunt of such a ‘deal’ this weekend. 

My sin  – I dared speak out.

If I was wrong to do so, then I’ve only myself to blame.  Even though I do feel – if one cares enough about something – one should always speak out, even when your gut tells you you’ll be crucified for it. Otherwise, nothing in life changes.

In attempting to help Amharclann, my local theatre in Donegal and the work being done there, I suggested more than eight weeks ago that the theatre should organise a fund-raiser for the unfortunate families of people tragically killed in an explosion in the nearby town of Creeslough. That was October 9, two days after the tragedy occurred. 

As you can see, I also offered to help bring top national performers to the Amharclann from different parts of Ireland who would not normally have come to Donegal. Here is my message –

Two board members thanked me by return email for my idea, informing me a decision would be made by the board and someone would get back to me.

More than eight weeks later and still not a word from anyone on the board. 

This weekend in a Facebook post I said I was disappointed with the delay in responding and also suggested some simple marketing improvements based on my experience owning a multi-national publishing and events company that I thought might help attract more people to shows at the Amharclann. 

For this, I was accused by the powers that be at the theatre, the spokesperson and chairperson of the board I presume, of ‘self preservation and glorification,’ creating ‘Fake News’ and making ‘off the cuff’ remarks.’ See below.

I must admit, I was taken aback by the severity of the backlash, especially as I praised the hardworking of theatre staff in my Facebook post. As I have done for previous events, I also urged people to attend this evening’s special event (Saturday) in aid of a cancer victim. 

But those positive comments were conveniently overlooked by the person who wrote the response above on behalf of the theatre. 

I also received an aggressive text from the board chairperson saying my comments reminded him of ’hurlers on the ditch ….bellowing.’ Of course, he’s entitled to his opinion, but he’s conveniently forgetting that I have attended many events and written many articles supporting the theatre and have even helped organise a fund-raising event there. That’s hardly being in the ditch.

Here are just a couple of my articles – 

I simply couldn’t understand the furore that necessitated an urgent board brainstorming session within a few hours of my Facebook message being posted to compile such a negative response to me. 

In terms of timing, comparing a few hours to more than eight weeks, there seems to be what I’d call a ‘major time discrepancy ’ between the two. So why?

Last night, I happened to be reading my local newspaper and saw a full-page of photos and text in the Donegal News praising a successful event organised by Ionad Naomh Fionnan, a small community centre in the nearby town of Falcarragh, which raised more than 5,000 euro for the Creeslough Community Support Fund. 

That’s when the penny dropped. 

Did my Facebook post make a certain person at Amharclann, the largest theatre in northwestern Donegal, embarrassed at failing to organise themselves properly in more than two months to host a fund-raising event for the families of victims? And sadly, instead of taking what amounts to delayed action on the idea, not for my sake but for those in need in Creeslough, they decided to use their energies to deflect blame from themselves and attack the messenger – me – instead. 

It’s a tried and true trick, used since the days of Ancient Rome. And if it worked then, it could well work now, more than a millennium later. 

As for the moral of the story, I’m still not sure. 

It’s difficult for me to accept the obvious – ‘simply, keep your mouth shut.’ If we all did that, owners of homes destroyed by mica would not receive any compensation and be homeless over Christmas.

Some things are simply worth speaking out about.

Accepting praise is easy, it’s accepting constructive criticism that’s a true sign of character. I, like everyone else, want the Amharclann to succeed. It is my local theatre, after all, and I wouldn’t have written so many articles about it otherwise and praised those who worked so hard to attract the investment necessary to renovate it years after it closed.

But as my taxes and those of others helped pay for this renovation, shouldn’t we all have the right to voice our opinions and make sure the investment of so much public money is the very best it can be for all concerned?

I’m still waiting for the answers to my questions:

Intriguing to see how Amharclann can make a decision to respond within a few hours to my Facebook post. Yet still not make a decision on my suggestion for a fund-raiser for families of victims of the Creeslough tragedy made two months ago (October 9). While it’s disappointing to see Amharclann attacking me personally rather than dealing with the issue, let’s together try to make things clearer, point by point. These are my questions to the Amharclann representative who made the comment on behalf of the board.

  1. I still do not see how planning tonight’s event, which I fully support and which was due to take place in October, prevented the board making a decision about my suggestion for a fund-raiser for families of the Creeslough tragedy. Please explain.
  2. I have received no notification of a decision by you on the Creeslough fund-raising idea. 
  3. I never said the theatre refused to host a Creeslough fund-raiser. Not making a decision is a decision as there is no such event on the theatre’s future program.

4. Amharclann says costs for the theatre are not one million euro as my inside source informed me, which you label ‘Fake News.’ For transparency sake, please give a brief breakdown here of the real figure to justify your accusations.

5. Myself, my wife Columbia, friends and guests, have attended more than 25 events at Amharclann and I have written a series of articles promoting the theater. Never on any occasion has any of us been asked to leave our email/phone contact for marketing purposes. And we have never received any direct notification of events. Please explain how this database you mention was compiled and how is it used. Do only certain people receive notifications?

And lastly, for clarification purposes, please explain how a fund-raising concert for families of the Creeslough tragedy would benefit me personally, for my ‘self-preservation and glorification’ as you describe it. 

I simply don’t understand.

And for the record, I fully support the aims and mission of the Amharclann, as evidenced by my many articles and attendances at shows.

In the meantime, I wish Ann Mooney success with the medical treatment she is undergoing in Spain. This is the link if you, like me, would like to make a donation.

Help Ann Receive Vital Cancer Treatment

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