Formal complaint against RTE for bias



By Anthony Sheridan

To Whom It May Concern:

I wish to lodge a formal complaint against RTE for breach of its Public Service Statement 2015.

My complaint centres on the biased panel selection on the Marian Finucane Show as broadcast on Sunday 4 September last.

Specifically, my complaint concerns the unbalanced and unchallenged views expressed during the discussion surrounding the Apple tax scandal.

The panel members were as follows:

Michael McDowell: Independent Senator and former Tanaiste and Minister for Justice.

Suzanne Kelly: Tax lawyer.

John McGuinness: Fianna Fail TD

Patsy McGarry: Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent.

Diarmuid Ferriter: Professor of Modern History at UCD.

It is reasonable to describe all the panel members and the presenter, Ms Finucane, as individuals with conservative views that are mainly in line with the governing establishment.

It is also reasonable to describe the two politicians on the panel as public representatives with strong and uncompromising views on the political outlook of those who oppose the Government’s response to the Apple tax scandal.

Left wing political parties such as Sinn Fein, Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit and others who represent a significant percentage of the population were, by their exclusion, prevented from expressing a contrary view.

This is in breach of RTEs Public Service Statement 2015.

I quote:

Ensuring its treatment of current affairs and matters of public controversy, in addition to being impartial and objective, is fair to all interests.

It is also clear that RTE management is very well aware of the major changes taking place within Irish society.

I quote:

RTÉ today sits within a society, economy and media environment that is changing; and changing rapidly. Recent years have shaken public confidence in institutions and traditional authority.

Despite this awareness, or perhaps because of it, RTE management seems to be abandoning its objectivity and professionalism in favour of taking the side of State/Government.

The apparent packing of a discussion panel in favour of one side of the debate is also in breach of RTEs duty in law to be impartial.

I quote:

RTÉ has a duty in law to be accurate, fair and impartial, and to remain independent from all state, political and commercial influences.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan


RTE: A mouthpiece for a corrupt regime?



By Anthony Sheridan

There is no evidence or even a claim that the murdered MP Jo Cox was the subject of abuse on social media. The only mention I am aware of is that she received ‘malicious communication of a sexual nature’ at her parliamentary office. This could have been by phone, letter, email, in person or social media.

But this lack of evidence has not stopped many Irish politicians and mainstream media jumping on the hypocrisy wagon to cynically exploit Ms. Cox’s brutal murder.

One particularly disgraceful example of this exploitation of a murder to promote an obvious agenda occurred on RTEs The Week in Politics.

The panel, as usual, was heavily weighed in favour of the government/establishment.

Representing the establishment view was Dara Murphy Fine Gael and Thomas Byrne Fianna Fail. Journalist Elaine Byrne and the presenter of the show, Aine Lawlor, represented mainstream media.

Against this stacked panel was Mick Barry of AAA/PBP, representing left wing politics and the anti-establishment view.

The bizarre line of questions put to Mr. Barry clearly exposed the biased agenda of RTE and is worth analysing to demonstrate that truth.

Aine Lawlor: Staying with the Irish response to immigration, we have a short clip of the controversial UKIP poster that attracted a lot of attention shortly before Jo Cox was murdered.

Viewers were shown a news clip of a British right wing politician promoting a right wing poster in favour of Brexit shortly before a right wing extremist murdered Jo Cox then, bizarrely; Lawlor put the following question to left wing politician Mick Barry.

Why is the politics of fear travelling particularly, as it seems, with a lot of working class voters, Labour voters, left wing voters in Britain?

Mr. Barry, while in the process of condemning extreme right wing politics in Britain and America, was interrupted by Lawlor.

But you know here in the past turbulent, painful years there were many people on the far Left who did target politicians personally. Do you regret that, I know there’s a lot of anger out there but has there been too much personalised anti politicians campaigning?

So Lawlor moved from discussing extreme right wing politics in the UK and the right wing murder of Jo Cox to asking Barry to express regret for the angry reaction of Irish citizens to the wholesale destruction of their lives by mainstream politicians.

The Fianna Fail politician on the panel, whose party was principally responsible for the catastrophe, was not asked to express any regret for his party’s actions. Neither was the right wing Fine Gael politician whose party ruthlessly continued and added to the suffering of Irish citizens.

This biased strategy of showing a news clip and then demanding a condemnation or an expression of regret has become common practice within RTE current affairs and seems to target only Sinn Fein and left wing politicians.

Clearly puzzled by Lawlor’s line of questioning Barry asked her what she was referring to.

I’m referring to a number of incidents which I think everybody else on the panel would… I’m not going to single out specific incidents because I don’t want to get into the ins and outs.

I’m talking about the way politicians were harassed at their homes, I’m talking about the online abuse that they got, I’m talking about a level of protest that has been endured by politicians here and certain politicians in Britain. You’re condemning it on the far right, I’m simply asking do you regret and deplore it on the far left as well.

Lawlor’s comment ‘I think everybody else on the panel would…’ suggests she was about to declare that everybody else on the panel agrees with her comments and her line of questioning.

The Fianna Fail and Fine Gael politicians were then allowed to join the attack on the so-called far left with little interference from Lawlor and again were not asked to condemn or express regret for the catastrophic damage their respective parties have inflicted on Ireland and its people.

When they finished their hypocritical and largely inaccurate comments Lawlor once again attacked Barry and left wing politics.

You’ve heard the two politicians beside you saying there are issues with some people on the Left and the way they have been harassing politicians – do you deplore that kind of individual harassment?

Keep in mind that the issue under discussion was the activities of UK right wing politicians and the murder of MP Jo Cox by a right wing extremist.

Here are some facts:

Ireland suffered more than any other country in the world as a result of the global economic collapse in 2008. The reason Ireland suffered so much is that, over decades, our corrupt political system created an environment of zero regulation that allowed bankers, property developers, lawyers and other elites to do as they pleased.

The response of the Irish people to the catastrophe visited upon them by corrupt politicians was the most peaceful, most responsible in the world – without exception.

RTE, while always conservative, was once a relatively professional and well balanced broadcaster.

Since 2008, and particularly since a significant percentage of Irish citizens began to rebel against political corruption, the broadcaster has become little more than a mouthpiece for the corrupt political regime.

Copy to:

RTE/Aine Lawlor

Dara Murphy

Thomas Byrne

Elaine Byrne

All political parties

Political lies cause suffering and death. Enda Kenny is a political liar


Political lies cause suffering and death. Enda Kenny is a political liar.

War is the most obvious and most deadly consequence of political lying. Over the centuries, countless millions have died because politicians lied when they should have told the truth.

But war is not the only cause of death as a result of political lies. There was a massive increase in the suicide rate following the economic collapse in 2008 (Recession directly to blame for up to 566 suicides).

These desperate people died, at least in part, because our politicians lied to them.

In Ireland, alone among Western democracies, political lying has become a fully accepted part of political discourse. It is also common right throughout the civil and public service.

Political lying has become part of Irish political culture principally because lying politicians are rarely challenged by the media.

Here’s Pat Rabbitte casually demonstrating this truth when asked about election promises regarding child benefit:

Sean O’Rourke:

You didn’t go into all that detail before the general election, you kept it really simple – Protect child benefit, vote Labour?


Well, I mean, isn’t that what you tend to do during an election?

The criminal politician Haughey lied right through his decades long career, including lying under oath at various tribunals and investigations. Despite the enormous damage done to Ireland and its people by this criminal’s lying he was, largely, fawned upon by large segments of the media and members of the establishment.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern almost certainly lied under oath at the Mahon Tribunal. My assertion that lying is the accepted norm in Irish political and administrative goverance is confirmed by the disgraceful fact that no action has been (or ever will be) taken against Ahern by any state authority.

Political lying is the principal cause of the catastrophic economic collapse of 2008 that resulted in thousands of suicides, massive emigration and the horrific destruction of the wealth, hopes and ambitions of hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens.

And yet, a disturbingly large section of the media and most of the establishment appear to be more than happy to live in comfortable denial amidst the wreckage and suffering caused by political lying.

The following is just a sample of various journalists, commentators and politicians who, for whatever reason, cannot or will not make the obvious link between political lying and the infliction of great hardship.

Caroline O’Doherty: Irish Examiner:

Kenny’s lie was:

A fisherman’s tale.

O’Doherty then went to use most of her article to advise Fine Gael on how best to present their (lying) leader to best advantage in the upcoming election campaign.

Caroline O’Doherty is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Editorial: Irish Examiner:

Kenny was, while dishonest, just a Walter Mitty character using:

Folksy parables.

The editor warned that Kenny must act quickly if he wants to be re-elected and, as always, took the opportuntiy to take a swipe at Gerry Adams/Sinn Fein.

The editor of the Irish Examiner is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Eilis O’Hanlon: Sunday Independent:

Kenny ruined it by going a ‘a little bit too far’ in attempting to portray himself as the man who saved the country from anarchy and, predictably, O’Hanlon blamed the media:

So why the outcry last week? The media, having got bored with the feel-good narrative which the Government has been pushing since the Budget, saw a chance to put the Taoiseach on the back foot.

Eilis O’Hanlon is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Michael Lehane: Morning Ireland (RTE):

On being asked did the whole issue matter:

It doesn’t matter but there is a political vacuum there because the Dail isn’t sitting so the focus didn’t come off it (but) it has gone the distance now.

Michael Lehane is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Pat Rabbitte: Labour TD: (Speaking on RTE):

The Taoiseach makes the point, perhaps in a folksy, homespun way.

Pat Rabbitte is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Noel Whelan: Irish Times:

Mr. Whelan believes that Kenny is a storyteller whose utterance was no accident.

It was part of a cleverly designed but clumsily implemented strategy from Fine Gael to remind voters of how serious the crisis was so as to talk up its part in turning it around.

Noel Whelan is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Gerry Adams: Sinn Fein president:

Mr. Adams accused Kenny of being a spoof who tells tall tales. Mr. Adams said he was not accusing the Taoiseach of lying but of just getting carried away with himself.

Gerry Adams is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Fergus Finlay: Chief Executive of Barnardos and former Labour Party advisor: (Late Debate RTE):

Why are we getting our knickers in a knot about it? Mother of God, this kind of thing happens all the time. It’s a bit of craic, that’s all it is, a bit of political craic and I don’t see how it affects anything other than the gaiety of the nation for a week.

I think it shows that we don’t have a sense of humour. You know, let’s get a grip for heaven’s sake, it’s about nothing.

Fergus Finlay is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Gary Murphy: Professor of Political Science, DCU (Late Debate RTE).

The Taoiseach does have a habit of self-aggrandisement or over-egging situations. He’s guilty of guilding the lily so to speak.

Professor Murphy is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Catherine Halloran: Political Correspondent Irish Daily Star: (Ryan Tubridy Show, RTE):

I think it’s his folksy way of trying to relate to people.

It’s better than telling lies. At least we know he has his finger on the pulse he met the man or woman who told him this and I don’t doubt for a second that he has met those people, he’s a politician… The fact that Enda does take the time out to stop and talk to people and listen to their experiences means he’s in a position to make judgement on them.

Catherine Halloran is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Shaun Connolly: Irish Examiner:

Mr. Connolly believes Kenny was simply caught out telling an over-excited porkie. He was guilty of a slightly embarrassing, but ultimately harmless, comment.

Shaun Connolly is not aware or doesn’t care that political lies cause suffering and death.

Copy to:
Enda Kenny
All individuals quoted
All political parties

RTE: A government propaganda puppet

This Week is one of RTEs flagship news and current affairs programmes. On its website the programme is described as:

A look at events making the news in the past week with Colm O’Mongain and Richard Crowley.

The words to note here are ‘current’ and ‘events making the news in the past week’.

One of the major stories that dominated the news last week was the very serious allegations made against NAMA by Mick Wallace TD. Not only has this story potentially very serious consequence for Irish citizens but it also involves the Government, law enforcement agencies and politicians from our nearest neighbour in the UK and a possible investigation by the corrupt practices investigations unit attached to the US Department of Justice.

In a functional democracy there is absolutely no way a national broadcaster would ignore this very serious event in one of its flagship news and current affairs programmes, it simply would not happen.

It is very reasonable for Irish citizens to conclude that RTE/This Week made a conscious decision not to cover this politically explosive scandal as a result of political and/or business pressure.

The producers of News and current affairs programmes can reasonably argue that they have to prioritise what they will cover according to the importance and immediacy of events, hence the blurb on This Week’s website, ‘A look at events making the news in the past week.’

The producers of yesterday’s programme obviously did not think the very serious allegations against NAMA, which are linked to the political, law enforcement, business and administrative sectors of our nearest neighbour, were important enough to cover on the show.

Again, the producers of This Week can reasonably argue that other stories were indeed more important and therefore it was reasonable to give them priority.

So let’s have a look at the stories that the producers thought were more important than the NAMA scandal.

First item: The Greek crisis. This is an immediate, important and ongoing story that requires deep analysis and reporting. It did not, however, warrant a full 45 minutes (out of less than 60 minutes) of reporting and analysis.

Second item: Reaction to reports on the future of IAGs Aer Lingus London slots.

This is not a major story and most certainly is not more important than the NAMA scandal. No independent producer would give priority to this story over the NAMA allegations.

Third item: The ongoing imprisonment of Ibrahim Halawa in Egypt. This is not a major story. Again, there is no possibility that a truly independent producer would give priority to this story and ignore a major national/international financial scandal that had just come to light.

There can be only three reasons for the omission of the NAMA story from the This Week programme.

One: Gross incompetence in that the producers are incapable of distinguishing between a major breaking news story and a relatively minor old story.

Two: The producers hold strong personal political/ideological views and make their decisions on that basis.

Three: The producers are under direct or indirect political/business pressure to ignore or at least minimise coverage of certain categories of news stories.

Personally, I believe the third reason is the truth but in the end it doesn’t matter in terms of RTEs credibility as an independent broadcaster.

The brutal reality is that RTE, for whatever reason, is rapidly evolving from being a professional, independent broadcaster into a propaganda puppet of the State and other interested parties.

Sean O’Rourke’s continuing support for the Government

I wrote the other day about the disgraceful bias shown by RTE presenter Sean O’Rourke during a discussion between Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy and Suzanne Lynch, Irish Times European Correspondent in Athens.

It is clear to even the most uninformed observer that O’Rourke supports the Government/establishment side in the ongoing Water Tax war.

O’Rourke doesn’t seem the least bothered about his unprofessional behaviour and, it also seems, RTE management have no problem with his bullyboy tactics when interviewing those who are opposed to his obvious pro-establishment opinions.

He puts great effort into steering discussion in favour of his own political opinion and, when necessary, he uses the tactic of interrupting those opposed to his views in support of those who are of the same mind as his.

His bullyboy tactics against Paul Murphy were again used in a ‘discussion’ between Labour Senator Mary Moran and Cllr. Michael O’Brien of the Anti-Austerity Alliance.

O’Rourke made it very difficult for Cllr. O’Brien to discuss the reason for the protest. Neither was Senator Moran interested in discussing the substantial issue, she simply kept expressing outrage at what she perceived was an attack on democracy and agreeing with Sean O’Rourke as he attacked the protester’s ‘thuggery’.

Here’s the relevant section of the discussion which centred on the throwing of a cone at a Guard.

Cllr. O’Brien: I don’t stand over the throwing of objects whatsoever but, there’s another side to this…

…interrupted by Sean O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: You don’t stand over it. Would you care to put it a little bit more strongly, maybe think about condemning it?

This is bullying. In O’Rourke’s poliltical opinion Cllr O’Brien was not strong enough in his reaction to the alleged incident.

Cllr. O’Brien: I’m opposed to the throwing of objects. The point I was going to make Sean was the Guards drew batons on people and I saw people from the community I represent with injuries inflicted upon them by the Guards.

Later when O’Brien was getting the better of Senator Moran, O’Rourke again interrupted, changing the direction of the discussion.

O’Rourke: What do you say to Alan Shatter the former Justice Minister, a representative of the people of Dublin South saying that he had abusive insults hurled at him, his car was thumped and kicked by some protesters, it was a clear example of thuggery.

Senator Moran: It was, absolutely.

O’Rourke is clealy showing bias here. He begins with a quesiton and ends by expressing his own strong political opinion. Senator Moran was clearly delighted with O’Rourke’s strong support.

O’Rourke: Do you condemn thuggery or do you accept that it was thuggery?

Cllr. O’Brien attempts to make his point but again O’Rourke interrupts.

O’Rourke: Are you saying you do not condemn the violent actions of some people who showed up last evening?

Cllr. O’Brien: Yes, I am opposed to the throwing of objects, spitting…

…interrupted again by O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: Do you condemn them?

Cllr. O’Brien: Yeah, I’m opposed to that.

O’Rourke: There’s a difference between being opposed to something and condemning it?

Cllr. O’Brien: Well, I do condemn the throwing of objects and conduct of that fashion.

As Cllr. O’Brien tries again to discuss the reason for the protest he is, yet again, interrupted by O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: Were you not in a position last night to appeal to people to restrain themselves, to cooperate with the Gardai?

Cllr. O’Brien explained that protesters were asked by organisers not to allow themselves be provoked by Gardai because a violent response would be used by media to discredit water protesters.

And of course, that’s exactly what Sean O’Rourke and RTE were doing. It’s odd that RTE management don’t seem to be aware of the massive damage such bias is doing to the station’s credibility.

Copy to:
Sean O’Rourke/RTE

Sean O’Rourke: No bias allowed – except RTEs

Once again we witness a blatant and unprofessional example of bias by RTEs Sean O’Rourke.

Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy was debating the Greek crisis with Suzanne Lynch, Irish Times European Correspondent in Athens.

Murphy was getting the better of Lynch which did not sit well with O’Rourke so he blatantly intervened not just to defend Lynch but to speak on her behalf.

Here’s the relevant section of the debate with my comments.

Paul Murphy: I think Suzanne Lynch’s articles have been consistently biased and taking the side of the so-called creditors. In a recent article she referred to Tspirias as a self-styled Che Guevara figure. That’s not unbiased journalism, it’s taking the line of the establishment and repeating the propaganda here…

…Interrupted by Sean O’Rourke.

O’Rourke: Hold on, before you go any further I want Suzanne Lynch to come back on that if she wishes – Suzanne?

Suzanne Lynch: I think I’ll just leave that actually, Sean.

Murphy continues but is immediately interrupted by Lynch as she thinks of a defence.

Lynch: That was an analysis piece that I wrote and in the Irish Times there’s a strong division between news and analysis and I’m not going to get into a defence of my work with Paul Murphy on radio.

This is a weak and ridiculous defence. Bias can, and frequently does, appear in both news and analysis.

Discussion continues with Paul Murphy tearing strips from both Lynch’s point of view and Juncker’s speech until O’Rourke again interrupts him.

O’Rourke: Come back to the point, you’ve dealt with that now and Juncker’s speech at some length. What about the points Suzanne Lynch made and, by the way, I don’t think it’s right for you to accuse somebody of bias. I think Suzanne Lynch is a professional, honest journalist reporting things as she sees them and by the way to describe your man as a self-styled Che Guevara is a complement.

Clearly, O’Rourke felt that Lynch was not performing well so, abandoning all semblance of professional impartiality, he intervenes, not only to castigate Murphy for accusing Lynch of being biased, but to deliver his personal, glowing assessment of Lynch’s honesty and professionalism.

If Lynch wasn’t in tatters after Murphy’s deconstruction of her arguments then surely she was in the realm of humiliation as she listened to O’Rourke’s well intentioned but utterly patronising and unasked for assistance in arguing her case.

Here’s the truth of the matter.

O’Rourke did not intervene in support of Lynch because he thought it was unfair of Murphy to accuse her of being biased. Accusing somebody of being biased is a common and accepted norm, particularly during political debate.

O’Rourke intervened because he clearly holds the same political views as Lynch and, as Murphy dismantled her arguments brick by brick, he felt compelled to intervene and help her out.

Everybody is biased to one degree or another but professional broadcasters are trained to conduct a debate without listeners ever getting a hint of where they stand on the issue under discussion. This training has just one aim – to maintain the credibility of the broadcasting station.

It is clear from this and previous incidents (here and here) that O’Rourke has permission not only to take sides but to blatantly intervene in support of those who are at one with his views and, presumably, those of RTE management.

Copy to:
Sean O’Rourke/RTE

RTE rejects bias complaint

RTE have made a decision regarding my recent complaint against Sean O’Rourke regarding bias against Sinn Fein.

Predictably, the station has rejected my complaint. I will now submit it to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

Here’s the RTE reply/decision.

Dear Mr Sheridan,

Thank you for your email concerning The Sean O’Rourke programme of Friday April 17th.

In the 22 minute section of the programme – The Gathering – the programme set out to deal with Seanad Reform, the death of 400 migrants in the Mediterranean, insolvency, a bus strike, along with Mary Lou McDonald and Dail privilege. The presenter also introduced the subject of grants for first time buyers towards the end of the discussion.

We reject your assertion that the discussion was anything less than fair, objective and impartial. During the discussion all the panellists were given time to give their views on the various subjects.. It is not unusual for the presenter to move rapidly from guest to guest as he moves from one topic to another : indeed, over the years this has been a mark of Sean O’Rourke’s presenting style.

The discussion was robust and that again is to be expected considering the issues involved. The presenter was cognisant that none of the individuals named in the Dail, under privilege, or their representatives – since some of them are deceased – were present. His questioning of Deputy Tóibín was completely in keeping, therefore, with that section of Rule 22 of the BAI Code of Fairness, Objectivity and Impartiality in News and Current Affairs which states: “It is an important part of the role of a presenter of a current affairs programme . . . to reflect the views of those who cannot, or choose not to, participate in content.”

The presenter put forceful questions to Deputy Tóibín in an attempt to elicit whether or not Deputy McDonald – in the first place – or Sinn Féin accepted the bona fides of those named individuals. In our view this was fair and would be expected of the programme by its listeners, and again in keeping with Rule 22 , where it states: “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.”

Finally, your claim that the presenter breached Rule 22 by “strongly and emotionally expressed his personal view” is incorrect. The presenter was, on behalf of listeners, carrying out his professional role of forcefully questioning a panellist whose party colleague was at the centre of public debate concerning her actions in Dáil Éireann. There is a clear distinction between challenging questions and the expression of a partisan view and there was no such expression on this occasion.

If any member of the public is of the opinion that a programme or segment of a programme broadcast on RTÉ has breached a provision of Section 39(1)(a), (b), (d) or (e) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 or failed to comply with a provision of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Codes and is not satisfied with RTÉ’s response they are entitled to make a complaint to the BAI.

Yours sincerely,

Formal complaint against RTE regarding blatant bias against Sinn Fein

Once again we witness blatant bias and intolerance by RTE when reporting/analysing the politics/activities of Sinn Fein.

I have submitted the following detailed complaint in response to the latest disgraceful example of so-called professional broadcasting by the station.

21 April 2015

To whom it may concern:

I wish to lodge a formal complaint against the presenter of Today with Sean O’Rourke, Sean O’Rourke, for a breach of section 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 Friday 17 April last, during a panel discussion on the controversy surrounding the naming of alleged Ansbacher names in Dail Eireann by Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald Mr. O’Rourke was anything but fair, objective or impartial.

Mr. O’Rourke was obviously leading the panelists into condemning the actions of Mary Lou McDonald by attacking Peadar Toibin the Sinn Fein representative on the panel.

As soon as a panelist agreed with Mr. O’Rourke’s obvious view on the matter he moved on to the next panelist.

For example, when David Hall suggested that perhaps there were some questions to be answered by the body politic Mr. O’Rourke interrupted him demanding a direct answer to the question – Do you think it was an abuse of Dail privilege?

As soon as Mr. Hall confirmed it was an abuse Mr. O’Rourke moved on to the next panelist.

Mr. O’Rourke failed, deliberately in my opinion, to interrupt and challenge Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins when she made false claims in relation to the issue.

For example, Senator Higgins falsely claimed that Mary Lou McDonald had presented allegations as findings when she named names in the Dail. It is not acceptable to just allow a panelist to refute this false claim, as Mr. Toibin did. The presenter has an obligation to clearly state that the claim was false.

Mr. O’Rourke, in direct breach of Section 22 of the Code, strongly and emotionally expressed his personal view on the issue as witnessed in this exchange between Mr. O’Rourke and Sinn Fein representative Peadar Toibin.

Toibin: I’m saying to those people that they are innocent until proven guilty.

O’Rourke: No, you’re really saying, and what she’s using Dail privilege to do, is say they’re guilty until proven innocent because why won’t she say it outside the House to the people who are still alive?

Toibin: You have to let me answer the questions. You’ve been firing them at me left right and centre.

O’Rourke: Yeah, well if we got an answer to one or two of them.

It is crystal that Mr. O’Rourke was neither objective nor impartial in the following exchange. His tone was accusatory and condemning of Mr. Toibin, Mary Lou McDonald and Sinn Fein.

O’Rourke: Does the word smear mean anything to you?

Toibin: It does, of course. What do you mean by that?

O’Rourke: I mean the… by naming or reading extracts which name individuals in Dail Eireann under privilege, the cloud of suspicion is raised over these people.

Toibin: The best way to actually clear any cloud of suspicion over these individuals would be for the Government, the Taoiseach has had this information since last November and yet we’ve had no efforts by the Government to have an investigation into these allegations…

Mr. O’Rourke allowed Mr. Toibin’s political rival on the panel, Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins, free rein to interrupt Mr. Toibin at will. Mr. O’Rourke himself constantly interrupted Mr. Toibin to the point where Mr. Toibin was effectively prevented from making adequate rebuttals.

The very obvious overall tone of the discussion, and in particular Mr. O’Rourke’s contribution, was one of bullying, intolerance and extreme bias.

For your convenience I include a transcription of the relevant section of the discussion.

Yours etc,
Anthony Sheridan

Extract from Today with Sean O’Rourke.
Broadcast 17 April 2015

Sean O’Rourke: Brenda Power, do you think she deserves to be censured?

Brenda Power: I think she abused Dail Privilege. Whether or not it’s one that the public will have sympathy for is another question, I think she has possibly more support on this than you might suspect because I guess there’s a lot of unfinished business with regard to the period in Irish politics that she was highlighting and a sense that maybe all the issues weren’t ventilated at the time.

Sean O’Rourke: What do you make of it David Hall given that all the people named have vehemently denied they had these off shore accounts?

David Hall: I think there’s a significant amount of support for a certain period in Irish politics, not necessarily a certain period but a general integration of Irish politics where there’s questions to be answered. It is unfortunate for those people deceased who are not in a position and families….

(Interrupted by O’Rourke.) Do you think it was an abuse of Dail privilege?

Hall, Yes, all things being equal, yes, I do.

O’Rourke: Lorraine Higgins whether there was abuse or not it seems to (be it’s) being played by Sinn Fein as political/Dail insiders effectively defending their own and there’s no particular benefit attempting to censure Mary Lou McDonald?

Lorraine Higgins: Look, this has become part and parcel of the kind of stunt politics we expect from Sinn Fein. At the end of the day Mary Lou needs to reflect on presenting allegations as findings in the Dail and she’s a member of the Public Accounts Committee, that was the proper realm to bring up these concerns when they were investigating the Ryan report. I just think with privilege comes responsibility so Mary Lou needs to be mindful of that.

Peadar Toibin: Mary Lou didn’t present them as findings. Over and over again she said they were allegations. What’s involved here is an authorised officer of the State making very, very serious allegations and the only corroborated element of this whole process is that that officer handed the information to Minister Richard Bruton. For two years the Minister sat on those documents and only when Mary Lou raised this issue did the Minister decide to give the documents to the Gardai.

(Interrupted by Senator Higgins) Peadar, it’s not for the politicians to investigate revenue offences, it’s up to the Revenue Commissioners and the Gardai.

Toibin: Are you saying it was ok for Minister Bruton to sit on a document…

(Interupted by Sean O’Rourke.)

O’Rourke: You’re changing the argument there Peadar Toibin. First of all, the former chairman of Revenue Commissioners, Josephine Feehily, assured the PAC that these investigations (sic) had been thoroughly examined and were found not to warrant further action. And Mary Lou named individuals. For starters, I’m not aware that she or your party have accepted the denials made by the people she named.

Toibin: Well, first of all, I haven’t seen the documents from the authorised officer, I have no idea what’s contained in those documents…

(Interrupted by O’Rourke.)

O’Rourke: No,no, that’s not the question. Does your party and does she accept the bona fides of the people she named under Dail privilege?

Toibin: What I can tell you is that Mary Lou is not saying that these individual are guilty of…

(Interrupted by O’Rourke.)

O’Rouke: Does she accept the bona fides of those people and does she accept…

(Interrupted by Toibin.)

Toibin: You need to ask Mary Lou that question but what…

(Interrupted by O’Rourke.)

O’Rourke: Ok, does Sinn Fein accept those denials of the people that were named?

Toibin: What I’m saying to you is…

(Interrupted by Senator Higgins.)

Senator Higgins: It’s a yes or no answer Peadar.

Toibin: It is not about the individuals concerned.

O’Rourke: Yes it is, very much so. If you were Sylvia Barrett’s family and if you were Declan Costello’s family it would most certainly be about their bona fides and so what you are saying to those people?

Toibin: I’m saying to those people that they are innocent until proven guilty.

O’Rourke: No, you’re really saying, and what she’s using Dail privilege to do, is say they’re guilty until proven innocent because why won’t she say it outside the House to the people who are still alive?

Toibin: You have to let me answer the questions. You’ve been firing them at me left right and centre.

O’Rourke: Yeah, well if we got an answer to one or two of them.

Toibin: I’m saying that they’re innocent until proven guilty and I’m saying that Mary Lou is saying that she is just echoing the allegations by an authorised officer…

(Interrupted by O’Rourke.)

O’Rourke: Does the word smear mean anything to you?

Toibin: It does, of course. What do you mean by that?

O’Rourke: I mean the, by naming or reading extracts which name individuals in Dail Eireann under privilege, the cloud of suspicion is raised over these people.

Toibin: The best way to actually clear any cloud of suspicion over these individuals would be for the Government, the Taoiseach has had this information since last November and yet we’ve had no efforts by the Government to have an investigation into these allegations…

(Interrupted by Senator Higgins.)

Senator Higgins: Politicians don’t investigate revenue matters Peadar, I thought you would knonw that. It’s up to the Revenue and the Gardai.

Toibin: (continuing) And we know that very senior authorised officers in the civil service felt so strongly about these issues that they felt they needed investigation, that they lodged them with the Minister and that he sat on them for two years…

(Interrupted by Senator Higgins.)

Senator Higgins: Are you saying that members of PAC were wrong in deciding not to call Mr. Ryan to make an oral submission?

Toibin: PAC can’t deal with it. Members of PAC were given legal advice that they can’t actually deal with it.

Senator Higgins: You’re skewing the facts here Peadar, you’re skewing the facts absolutely.

Toibin: Attention is being focused on Mary Lou…

(Interrupted by Senator Higgins.)

Senator Higgins: Righty so, rightly so.

Toibin: (continuing) and all the attention is diverted off these allegations that are being made by this authorised officer…

(Interrupted by Senator Higgins.)

Senator Higgins: The Gardai have investigated, the Revenue has investigated, the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals have investigated and PAC has examined, how much more needs to be done?

Hall: It’s very important to remember this has been investigated, some people don’t like the outcome of investigations but this has been investigated by a number of State bodies and outcomes have been determined and to be fair to all concerned and particularly those named, they are innocent as has been proven by those investigations and it is unfair to suggest anything else.

Copy to:
Peadar Toibin
Lorraine Higgins
David Hall

RTE: The listeners can wait

It’s 2 pm and I need to access RTEs Late Debate from last night, but, once again, it’s not available – 16 hours after broadcast.

I rang the programme and was told it would be up in an hour or two. I asked why the long delay and was told something about somebody not being in.

I asked about their technology, was it up to date? I mentioned how stations like Newstalk put their shows on archive even as they’re going out live. Pat Kenny, for example, frequently reminds listeners that they can listen to the first part of the show while he’s live on air.

So why can’t RTE do the same? Well, it appears they can, they do have the technology.

It just seems to be a case of – feck the listeners and journalists who may need the service, let them wait.

Dr. Kelly and the Operation Transformation roadshow

Last year, if I remember correctly, there was a major controversy surrounding RTE’s reality TV show Operation Transformation. As I recall some person of authority strongly attacked one of the contestants for something or other.

The incident resulted in wall-to-wall coverage and comment, generating massive publicity for the programme.

And now, amazingly, the same thing has happened this year.

So here’s the reality of reality shows.

This show, like all other reality shows, has just one principal aim – to make lots and lots of money.

The principal resource for such shows is an endless supply of naïve, desperate people who are willing to humiliate themselves in front of the nation in the hope of solving their problems and/or enjoying their 15 minutes of famosity.

The more people that watch the show the bigger the profit, so a big effort goes into promoting the product and by far the best, and most cynical, promotional strategy is the creation of controversy – hence the annual charade.

Somebody called Dr. Ciara Kelly was the vehicle for this year’s controversy.

It may be that this doctor is completely unaware of the standard strategy of promoting such shows; it may be that her motives are entirely genuine.

It may be that her one mission in life is to do all she can to help people like Eilish, the victim in this year’s controversy – but, somehow, I doubt she’s as naïve as her victim.

Dr. Kelly should have dropped the matter once the annual controversy had garnered the required publicity but she lost the run of herself and began lecturing the nation on the evils of drink.

The lecture began on the Sunday Independent and continued on the Marian Finucane Show (did the producer of Operation Transformation ‘arrange’ her presence on the show?).

The doctor tells us in her article that:

Yes, I was speaking to Eilish, but I wasn’t talking about Eilish.

So, she was exploiting Eilish’s weakness as a vehicle to deliver a rant to the nation? Not exactly a professional approach to a medical problem.

Here’s some of what she said to her victim.

I’m disgusted (by your behaviour) because there are people around the country following you.

There are young people watching this show, there are kids watching this show and I thought that was appalling.

This week was an abomination.

I was embarrassed for you and I was disgusted to see you, you let the programme down. You let your followers down and with respect to Eilish, you let yourself down.

Ok, I might be missing something here but these brutal, deeply insulting comments do not sound like they were aimed at the general population.

They sound more like an individual abusing her position of authority to stoke up a controversy to promote the commercial interests of a reality show.

No reasonable person would deny that drink abuse is a very serious problem in Ireland. But if Dr. Kelly is serious about helping the situation I would suggest she does it in a measured, professional manner.

I would suggest she desist from exploiting vulnerable people to promote what looks like self-promotion and the promotion of RTEs commercial interests.

Copy to:
Dr. Kelly