On the 19/20th March last, the most disgraceful and alarming event in recent Irish history occurred when Grainne Carruth gave evidence before the Mahon Tribunal.
Carruth’s evidence to the Mahon Tribunal has raised the appalling vista that the current Taoiseach of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, may have lied under oath.
To my knowledge, only one media outlet, The Irish Independent, made any direct reference to this event.
“It has been apparent a number of times before in evidence that the Taoiseach of the country has been lying under his own sworn oath.” (Senan Molony, March 21st 2008).
To my knowledge, there has been absolutely no in-depth reporting or analysis of this event by any Irish media outlet and, in particular, by the national broadcaster, RTE.
I have no idea why RTE, and in particular, the station’s flagship news and current affairs programme, Prime Time, have decided to completely ignore this extremely important story.
Is it out of fear of the station’s political masters? Is it because the decision makers in RTE are incapable of facing the appalling vista that a sitting Taoiseach may have committed perjury?
Whatever the reason, the fact that RTE has ignored this important story is a scandal in itself.
On Thursday 20th March, when the full implications of Grainne Carruth’s evidence were clear, Prime Time remained silent on the matter.
The programme reported about standards in cosmetic clinics and the bulk of the show was given over to the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
Do the Prime Time producers really believe that there was even a tiny minority of Irish citizens glued to their television sets as, once again, RTE analysed to death every detail of the Good Friday Agreement?
Did it ever occur to the decision makers within RTE that the majority of Irish citizens were expecting in-depth reporting and analysis of the dramatic and shocking revelations at Dublin Castle?
Are the decisions makers within RTE aware that they have an obligation both as national broadcaster and as media/news professionals to report on the most important and immediate events particularly when those events are likely to have profound implications for the Irish people and a serious impact on the quality of Irish democracy?
I watched this Prime Time programme with a mixture of amused derision and growing anger that RTE cannot or will not accept the possibility that a sitting Taoiseach may have perjured himself.
As this massive elephant rampaged around the room, Prime Time and every other RTE news programme on radio and television studiously ignored the reality of what had happened.
On Tuesday 25th March Prime Time covered primary school education and yet another story on Northern Ireland – the Omagh bombing.
On Thursday 27 March the programme reported on the increasing pressure on Ahern to clarify his evidence to the Mahon Tribunal but the real story of possible perjury wasn’t mentioned.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in what was revealed at Dublin Castle would want to hear discussion of the possible implications if Ahern is ultimately found to have perjured himself. What is perjury, has anyone else committed perjury in a tribunal, how is the crime dealt with in other jurisdictions – Silence from RTE.
In the meantime, Bertie Ahern announced his resignation. Again, RTE and the media in general have practically ignored the obvious reason for his resignation – the smoking gun produced by Carruth’s evidence; the evidence that has possibly exposed the Taoiseach as a perjurer.
The matter has now been practically forgotten about as the media concentrate on Cowen’s succession.
This scandalous failure to meet its obligations has also raised another disturbing development regarding RTE. It now seems that politicians are free to dictate the conditions under which they will deign to be interviewed.
RTEs This Week programme had a prior arrangement with Bertie Ahern (before his resignation announcement) to discuss the Good Friday Agreement. He only agreed to go ahead with the interview on condition that the theme remained substantially the same.
Listening to the interview, it was obvious why Ahern insisted that RTE comply with his demands. We were subjected to a self congratulatory account of how Ahern, single-handedly brought peace to Northern Ireland
It is now common to hear RTE broadcasters inform viewers that Government ministers or spokespersons are ‘not available’ to answer questions and then turn to a reporter for a cosy chat on crucial issues that have consequences for every citizen in this state.
Neither is it unusual to be told that a politician or official will only participate on condition that they are not challenged by any other interested party or they will only answer specific pre arranged questions.
Apparently, the national broadcaster has no problem with what is, in effect, creeping censorship and manipulation of information.
All other RTE News and Current Affairs programmes