By Anthony Sheridan
On 11 May last Newstalk broadcaster George Hook made some very strong comments about a number of politicians in relation to the non-payment of water charges.
I believe Mr. Hook’s comments are in breach of the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs and, as a consequence, I have submitted a formal complaint to Newstalk (See full complaint below).
It is interesting to note that while Mr. Hook has no scruples whatsoever in accusing fellow citizens of being tax evaders he is very sensitive to those who make alleged nasty comments concerning his character.
Earlier this year Hook threatened to sue rugby player Johnny Sexton and the Irish Times for defamation over comments made about him (Hook) in an interview.
Ridiculously, Hook had alleged that comments made by Sexton in the interview meant that he (Hook) did not believe what he writes and broadcasts, and had generated controversy over player welfare, including Sexton’s, to further his career.
19 May 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
I wish to lodge a formal complaint against the presenter of The Right Hook, George Hook, for a breach of sections 21 and 22 of the Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs, which came into effect on 1 July 2013 under Section 42 of the Broadcasting Act 2009.
On 11 May last Mr. Hook, while making comment on the issue of the non-payment of water charges by certain politicians, said:
We seem to be perfectly happy that a Cabinet minister can sit there and not pay his taxes. He is a tax evader; he is evading lawful taxation in the shape of the water charges.
Meantime, across the aisle in the Opposition benches you have the leader of the Social Democrats, also says I haven’t paid any water charges…It is rumored that John Halligan will become a Junior Minister, another tax evader. And one can only presume…that Paul Murphy hasn’t paid his water charges either.
I think it is an absolute outrage to the ordinary people of Ireland more than half of whom have actually paid their water charges that people who think they can be Cabinet ministers, junior ministers, leaders of political parties, leaders of campaigns for the underprivileged can actually turn around and say; I’m not going to pay lawfully taxes that have been levied by the government. It is an absolute outrage.
Now Alan Kelly, of course, has demanded that Finian McGrath should consider his position. I think he should, I think Alan Kelly is absolutely right.
And then Finian McGrath, this is his defence. Listen carefully to his defence. I haven’t paid my water charges but accept the reality that if there are constitutional or legal challenges I will look at that.
It’s incredible; this minister needs a constitutional or legal imperative to ask him to pay his taxes. The rest of us just paid up…he doesn’t have a constitutional imperative or a legal imperative. He has the imperative of integrity, honesty and an understanding of what it means to be a minister of government in a democracy.
He should, quite simply, resign or pay up. It’s very simple…and the rest of them should do likewise, those sitting on benches in the Opposition should do likewise.
It is clear that Mr. Hook is expressing the following opinions.
Minister McGrath TD is a tax evader.
The leader of the Social Democrats is a tax evader.
John Halligan TD is a tax evader.
Paul Murphy TD is, presumably, a tax evader.
That Minister McGrath does not have a constitutional or legal imperative to ask the Attorney General for advice on the issue.
That Alan Kelly TD is right in his demand that Minister McGrath should consider his position.
That it is an absolute outrage that a number of politicians should refuse to pay lawfully levied taxes.
That Minister McGrath should pay up or resign.
That those politicians in the Opposition who are refusing to pay the water charge should also resign.
Clearly, Mr. Hook is expressing opinions on a matter that is publicly controversial and of current public debate and is therefore in breach of the code.
I include the relevant sections of the Act below for your convenience.
- A news presenter and/or a reporter in a news programme may not express his or her own view on matters that are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate.
- It is an important part of the role of a presenter of a current affairs programme to ensure that the audience has access to a wide variety of views on the subject of the programme or item; to facilitate the expression of contributors‘ opinions – sometimes by forceful questioning; and to reflect the views of those who cannot, or choose not to, participate in content. This being so, a presenter and/or a reporter on a current affairs programme shall not express his or her own views on matters that are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate such that a partisan position is advocated.