By Anthony Sheridan
23 Sep 2020
Sarah McInerney is one of RTEs top news and current affairs broadcasters. As such she is required to exercise strict impartiality on all matters controversial but particularly in relation to political issues.
The general public should not be able to tell the personal views of broadcasters such as McInerney. So my question is, why is she allowed to express strong personal political opinions in her column in the Sunday Times?
Just last Sunday, for example, she expressed the opinion that the Taoiseach’s debilitating amiability is a liability in government.
Martin has been too nice for too long; she thundered before going on to say that his softly, softly approach to challenges from his Parliamentary Party and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar was not good for Fianna Fail.
Her final paragraph could have come from the mouth of the Taoiseach’s most worried advisor:
You have to play the political game, no matter how distasteful it may be. If Martin wants to survive two years as Taoiseach, with his party still intact, it’s time for a mini makeover. No more Mr Nice Guy.
RTEs guidelines on impartiality are crystal clear: [Section 8.4 Impartiality]
Our audiences should not be able to tell from our output the personal views of our journalists or news and current affairs presenters on matters of public policy, political or industrial controversy, or on ‘controversial subjects’ in any other area.
And, more precisely:
…may not express personal views in RTÉ output, online or elsewhere, [my underline] and must be careful in their use of social media to avoid any perception of partiality.
Everyone who read the article now knows that McInerney is concerned about Michael Martin’s performance as Taoiseach and the continuing drop in support for Fianna Fail.
This is damaging to her credibility as a news and current affairs broadcaster. Any robust questioning of opposition TDs will be seen as support for Fianna Fail. Any perceived soft interview with Fianna Fail TDs or ministers will be seen in a similar light.
As one of the most popular and admired news broadcasters in the country McInerney has the potential to wield enormous political influence.
She should not be allowed to do so. Time RTE management had a word in her ear.