A major news story broke live on RTE’s Late Debate last Wednesday concerning Irish Water.
Unfortunately, the story suffered a quick death, principally I believe, because of the manner in which it was handled by RTE.
Labour Senator John Whelan claimed that Irish Water had misled the Government over the establishment of the organisation.
The presenter of the show, Cormac O’hEadhra, was astonished by the revelation and questioned the senator closely on his claim.
The senator repeated his claim and said he stood by every word. The presenter, clearly aware of the gravity of the claim, uttered the standard RTE response to protect the station against any possible legal action – RTE distances itself from the claims you are making…etc,etc.
In my opinion the presenter/RTE had no need to take such a precaution.
As a member of the Oireachtas and as a member of a government party Senator Whelan was revealing, for the first time, a very important fact (as he believed) about one of the most contentious issues in recent history. It was a major and completely legitimate news story.
Unfortunately, RTE did not see it that way.
The following morning I accessed the Late Debate website to quote Senator Whelan on this blog. To my surprise, the relevant section of the discussion had been removed by RTE. After a week of trying to obtain an explanation I finally made contact today and was told that.
An editorial decision was taken to take the piece down for all concerned. It was decided that there were potential issues that could exasperate something negative.
In my opinion this is total rubbish. I don’t think RTE censored this particular item to protect Irish Water or the Government although, in effect, that was the outcome.
I think the decision was made out of panic either because of a possible but highly unlikely legal action by Irish Water or, more likely, a fear of political revenge on the broadcaster.
I have a habit of occasionally taping programmes so that I can quote back on this blog. Now, because I’ve lost trust in RTEs judgement particularly when it comes to politicians, I will be taping all RTE current affairs programmes to avoid the censor’s scissors.