Eamonn Mallie, deservedly one of Northern Ireland’s most respected journalists, sent the twittersphere into overdrive today when he inadvertantly tweeted ‘the minister for justice has just said he is resignin G’.
This on the day that the Green Party called time on the coalition by demanding an election in January, and also on the day a Fianna Fáil TD had signalled he was unlikely to support the forthcoming budget; of course, also after the day the Irish government made its embarrassing application to the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for tens of billions of Euros assistance.
What Eamonn Mallie did was, of course, ham-fisted, but nothing to be annoyed at him about; but the impact it had on the rumour mill and the speed at which information from him, a respected and incredibly fast news reporter, spread throughout the internet and beyond, was absolutely incredible.
- First, when he tweeted the message, I and plenty like me, retweeted his comment. I have 806 followers, so this probably means around 50 followers had a chance to see the message from me alone. Certainly, other twits retweeted.
- Then came the round of clarifications. @Rob_Cass, who is almost as right wing as me, asked for clarification, and I followed him, as did @susibie.
- Pack mentality took over; the speed of typing must have been pretty intense. Plenty of others started asking for clarifications, and doing it publicly.
- I ventured that he could mean David Forde, Justice Minister
- It became clear that @tomassharkey had predicted this last night, adding potential fuel to the rumour mill
- Justifications began to fly in. Some speculated that Dermot Ahern had been unhappy for a while and wanted to resign. Others said they’d heard there was a statement due from the Department of Justice and Law Reform; still more said they had been predicting this for ages. This all fed the mill and made the idea of his resignation more plausible.
- The cycle continued to grow in importance, before @EamonnMallie made a pretty sheepish retraction
Twitter can be dangerous when political situations are already unstable. Whilst Eamonn Mallie didn’t bring down a government today, who can say that a rumour from a well respected source such as the indomitable Mr Mallie wouldn’t have the power to do that in future?