RTE: Blatant censorship and manipulation of news




By Anthony Sheridan


RTE continues its alarming lurch from the status of national broadcaster to that of a broadcaster servile to the requirements and defence of politicians and other powerful figures in Irish society.

The station’s disgraceful coverage of the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial is just the latest example of this disturbing trend.

I have submitted the following complaint to RTE in response to this latest failure to properly act according to its mandate.



To Whom It May Concern:

Please find formal complaint regarding the manipulation and censorship of news by RTE in its coverage of the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial.

Background: There are three reasons why the collapse of this trial constitutes a major news event of national importance:

One: Sean Fitzpatrick was central to the creation of Anglo Irish Bank, a bank whose collapse cost the taxpayer €35 billion and played a significant role in the economic catastrophe that has destroyed the lives of countless thousands of Irish citizens since 2008.

The collapse of Anglo Irish Bank and the ensuing economic collapse resulted in the forced emigration of 300,000, mostly young, Irish citizens. Mass unemployment coupled with massive loss of personal wealth particularly in housing, savings and pensions.

Widespread despair and loss of confidence in the future, a factor that contributed to hundreds of suicides. A very serious and dangerous loss of faith in the political system coupled with a serious loss of faith in the professionalism and objectivity of state agencies particularly those charged with regulation.

A heightened and justified suspicion regarding the standards of professional and objective balance of media outlets and in particular the balance and objectivity of the national broadcaster, RTE.

Two: The trial of Mr. Fitzpatrick was the longest and most important criminal trial in the history of the state. Even if this trial were a standard trial with none of the consequences listed above it would still warrant serious, in-depth analysis and coverage particularly by RTE which has an obligation to provide such coverage.

Three: The failings of the Office of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) that were the direct cause of the collapse of the trial raises extremely serious questions regarding the procedures, professionalism and honesty of those responsible for investigating such cases. These failings are in and of themselves grounds for major news coverage coupled with professional, in-depth and rigorous questioning by RTE of all the parties involved.

RTEs Public Service Statement outlines the broadcaster’s obligation:

Providing comprehensive coverage and analysis of Irish and international politics and public affairs and contributing to an informed citizenship.

RTE failed in its obligation to properly report, explain and analyse the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial.

This complaint is composed of two parts.

ONE: The editorial decision taken by RTE management to prohibit any reference whatsoever to the story on the news and current affairs programme, The Late Debate.

TWO: The minimalist and carefully choreographed management of the story across all of RTEs flagship news and current affairs programmes.

The Late Debate:

The Late Debate is one of RTEs flagship news and current affairs programmes. The programme is described on its website as follows:

Cormac Ó hEadhra presents live debate and analysis of all the news and political stories of the day, including coverage of today’s events in the Oireachtas

The show is broadcast on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of every week and, as the above description indicates, covers all the news and political stories of the day.

This did not happen in response to the collapse of the Fitzpatrick trial.

On Tuesday 23 May the dramatic and highly newsworthy collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial occurred but RTE, for whatever reason, prohibited any mention of the story on The Late Debate.

On Wednesday 24 May, despite universal coverage and analysis across all other media outlets, RTE, for whatever reason, prohibited any mention of the story on The Late Debate.

On Thursday 25 May, despite continuing widespread coverage and analysis across all other media outlets, continuous reaction from politicians, press editorials and opinion makers, RTE for whatever reason, prohibited any mention of the story on The Late Debate.

I use the word ‘prohibited’ here for the following reasons:

The singular fact that such an important and immediately current news story was not discussed in any manner or form strongly suggests news manipulation. The total silence of the presenter and the numerous politicians and journalists who participated in discussion over the three-day period adds weight to the charge of news manipulation.

Even if a story is unlisted for coverage it is common practice for RTE presenters to ask questions and request opinion from panel members regarding recent or breaking stories. Over the three day period, despite the massive background presence of this major news story, the presenter of the programme Cormac Ó hEadhra made no reference whatsoever to the scandal. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that Mr. Ó hEadhra was acting under instructions from a higher authority.

On the three nights in question, politicians and journalists formed part of the discussion panels. Despite the massive background presence of this major news story no politician or journalist made any reference whatsoever to the issue. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that all panel members were acting under instructions from RTE management to remain silent on the issue.

The minimalist and carefully choreographed management of the story across all of RTEs flagship news and current affairs programmes during the three days of 23/24/25 May.

RTE made no effort whatsoever to interrogate or challenge government ministers, government officials or, most critically, officials from the ODCE in response to this major scandal.

A brief summary of RTEs coverage between 23 May when the story broke to 25 May when the story was effectively killed off by RTE clearly exposes RTEs minimalist strategy in covering this scandal.

23/24 May – Drivetime: Less than 30 minutes coverage over the two days consisting of short reports by RTE journalist Orla O’Donnell and a brief interview with Sunday Business Post journalist Tom Lyons.

No government ministers, no government officials, no ODCE officials questioned. No in-depth analysis, no hard questions.

Six One News and Nine News: Standard news reports on the collapse of the trial coupled with cosy chats between RTE journalists principally focusing on the judges decision and lack of resources for the ODCE.

No government ministers, no government officials, no ODCE officials questioned. No in-depth analysis, no hard questions.

23 May – Prime Time: Yet another report on the background of Sean Fitzpatrick and Anglo Irish Bank followed by a cosy chat between RTE journalist and a journalist from Independent News and Media.

No government ministers, no government officials, no ODCE officials questioned. No in-depth analysis, no hard questions.

24 May – Morning Ireland: A brief six minute interview with Roisin Shortall of the Social Democrats raising questions in relation to the part played by the ODCE in the scandal. This was the one and only reference to the scandal by Morning Ireland.

This virtual news blackout by one of RTEs most listened to current affairs programmes is in itself a blatant and disgraceful manipulation of news.

27 May – Saturday with Claire Byrne: The collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial was not discussed in any shape or form on this programme.

The disgraceful failure to discuss the scandal on this programme amounts to nothing less than news censorship that benefitted the interests of politicians and other powerful people while damaging the interests of the Irish people and the professional reputation of RTE as an objective broadcaster.

28 May – The Week in Politics: Brief discussion between minor politicians on the scandal.

No government ministers, no government officials, no ODCE officials questioned. No in-depth analysis, no hard questions.

It is not a defence to claim that adequate news coverage of the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial was impossible because of the parallel terrorist attack in Manchester. Many other stories of much less importance than that of the trial collapse received ongoing coverage. For example, the Fine Gael leadership campaign continued to receive wall-to-wall coverage and priority over all other stories.

RTEs policy of employing it’s own journalists to chat with each other in response to major scandals is lazy and unprofessional journalism.

There is also a growing suspicion among listeners and viewers that the policy is a deliberate strategy designed to protect politicians and other powerful people from being made accountable.

The abject failure of RTE to provide in-depth and robust coverage of the collapse of the Sean Fitzpatrick trial is just the latest example of the station’s alarming drift from the status of national broadcaster to that of servile government broadcaster.


Copy to:

RTE Complaints

RTE Director General

All RTE journalists involved in the story

Professor O’Neill: Ambivalent on the Science v Religion debate?

Luke O’Neill, professor of biochemistry at TCD, was interviewed recently on the Pat Kenny Show.(2 July, part three: 6 min).

The question under discussion was:

What is religion and where did it come from? How and why did it evolve? Is there a scientific explanation or is science itself just another religion?

I am responding to the interview because professor O’Neill, like many scientists, is far too ambivalent when it comes to the conflict between science and religion.

My general impression of such scientists is that they are shy about upsetting believers and also exhibit a lack of confidence (perhaps even shame) in the achievements and power of science.

Professor O’Neill is a non-believer and is clearly on the side of science but his views/explanations/answers are far too soft on religion.

O’Neill’s attitude during the discussion strongly indicated that science is, in many ways, similar to religion. This is simply not the case and is, in my opinion, very destructive to the interests of science.

Before getting into analysis it will be useful to provide exact definitions of the subject matter under discussion.

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods (Oxford English Dictionary).

Science: The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment (Oxford English Dictionary).

Pat Kenny: Can religion be explained in biological terms?

Professor O’Neill: All religions can be explained by science, they evolved. But remember, we’re not trying to explain god here, that’s a completely different issue entirely.

Analysis: Professor O’Neill is correct to say that the phenomenon of religious belief is evolutionary but he is wrong in claiming that the existence/explanation of god/s is a separate matter entirely.

This is akin to stating, for example, that the 1916 Rising is not relevant to Irish history.

The belief in a god/s lies at the core of religious belief. All religions act on and obey the diktats of their particular supernatural being. All religions defend their actions, no matter how horrific or benign on the rules and commands of their supernatural being.

‘Religions’ that do not believe in a supernatural being, for example, Buddhism, are not religions,they are philosophies of life.

Kenny: People of religious faith are more likely to behave better and have a healthier life.

O’Neill: Loads of studies show that if you’re religious it has a health advantage and people of religious faith are inclined to behave themselves more.

Analysis: I would be deeply skeptical of such studies and suspect that there are as many studies that show the opposite. My atheism has not damaged my health or my behaviour in any way whatsoever.

In fact, I strongly believe that I’m mentally, morally and physically better off as a result of not living my life under the negativity of superstition.

To suggest that hundreds of millions of non-believers live lives that are morally inferior to those who believe in god/s is ridiculous and insulting.

Indeed, it can be argued that non-believers are more moral because they are not subject to the superstitious/bizarre commands of their particular god/s.

Non-believers do not, for example, punish or even kill their fellow humans for believing in a rival god or printing a cartoon.

Kenny: Science is just another religion?

O’Neill: Science has many of the traits of religion, amazing as it may seem. Of course, science is not religion, it’s based on evidence but there are similarities between the two.

Analysis: This kind of ambivalence on the conflict between science and religion can be extremely damaging as it provides support for one of the favourite myths promoted by religious militants – that science is indeed just another religion.

There are no similarities whatsoever between science and religion. As the above definitions clearly demonstrate – science is about systematically studying the structure and behaviour of nature through observation and experiment – period.

Religion is belief in a supernatural power – period.

The clue can be found in the unbridgeable difference between the words ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’.

Kenny: In Christian faith, man is very special. Do scientists believe that humankind is special?

O’Neill: Some of my colleagues do. We all think evolution was about generating us and it’s probably not true, it’s random. Most scientists would probably say our brains are very special and it may not be the case.

Analysis: All scientists, I suspect, believe that humans and particularly the human brain is very special and they are absolutely right, from a purely scientific point of view.

But very few scientists believe that that specialness is due to a god. I seriously doubt O’Neill’s claim that all scientists believe evolution was about generating humans. With very few exceptions, scientists would agree with the professor’s claim that the evolution of humans is entirely random.

Kenny: Science casts out its heretics?

O’Neill: This is very true. All great religions hate heretics; they burn them at the stake. Equally, if you step out of line as a scientist…you will be pilloried. We don’t like heretics; that’s very similar.

Analysis: A heretic is a person who does not conform to established religious dogma. The sometimes’ negative reaction of the scientific community to a scientist who challenges established practices/principles is nothing more than a deep psychological reluctance to let go of long favoured conclusions. There is a big difference between the two.

Kenny: Science reveres its own saints?

O’Neill: Yes, Darwin is a saint for many of us. Newton, Einstein, so we do have our saints as well, absolutely.

Analysis: Now I know that professor O’Neill doesn’t really believe that scientists such as Darwin and Newton are saints in a religious sense, or, at least I hope he doesn’t.

But his casual association of great scientists with the religious concept of sainthood is grist to the mill for those who actively work to blur the obvious difference between science and religion.

It is not uncommon to hear religious people defend their superstitions with the argument that science too is a religion with its own saints and priesthood.

Kenny: Science makes up stories to explain its origins?

O’Neill: Every religion has its origin myths. We don’t know how the universe started. So scientists would say membranes formed and banged off each other and these are myths of origin as well. If you get evidence for them you’re in a better place but we set out to invent these myths to explain.

Analysis: Scientists do not set out to invent myths to explain anything. Scientists operate under strict rules as follows:

Ask a question.
Do background research.
Construct a hypothesis.
Test your hypothesis by doing experiments.
Analyse your data and draw a conclusion.
Communicate your results so that other scientists can carry out independent tests in an effort to falsify your conclusion.

Again, the careless and dangerous association of religious superstitions with science by scientists likes professor O’Neill does serious damage to the progress of science and greatly encourages the religious fanatics.

Kenny: Most of science is unfounded?

O’Neill: This is not quite true; science looks for evidence. There’s evidence for evolution but there’s some aspects of the theory for which there’s no evidence but we still sort of believe in them.

Analysis: It is true that some aspects of evolution are questionable but again, scientists don’t ‘sort of believe in them’. They form hypothesis and test them.

Kenny: Science requires faith?

O’Neill: It’s not quite true but if you ask an average scientist, do you believe in the Theory of Relativity, he will say, yes and won’t have a clue. He will take it on faith from another scientist who does know. But still, many of us say we believe in X and we don’t know the evidence. So again, there’s a similarity, sort of.

Analysis: If you ask the average motorist, do you believe in the science that makes your car engine work, he will say yes, but won’t have a clue. It is the evidence he can see every time he drives his car and not (blind) faith that convinces him that the science is true.

When a scientist accepts the Theory of Relativity on the word of another scientist he is not engaging in an act of faith. He is already aware that there is a vast amount of evidence available if he needs to check it out further. He’s also aware that the entire scientific community accepts the theory for so long as the evidence remains unfalsified.

Having religious faith in something (and that’s the subject under discussion here) means accepting something, usually a fantastic claim, with no evidence whatsoever. Scientists (science) do not operate on faith in any manner or form.

Kenny: So it’s a leap of faith?

O’Neill: Yes, it’s a leap of faith but hopefully it’s based on evidence. But there’s still a leap of faith there, of sorts.

Analysis: No, there’s no leap of (religious) faith involved in science whatsoever. It’s all based on hypothesis/evidence/experiment and testing.

An act of faith means believing in something without empirical evidence. Religion operates within this fantasy realm; science does not.

The following will illustrate the difference:

Professor O’Neill is standing 50 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. A priest asks him to run and jump over the edge assuring him that god will keep him safe. To agree to this requires a leap of faith.

I’m also standing 50 yards from the edge with a scientist who asks me to do the same. However, prior to the request the scientist showed me and rigorously tested a safety net located five feet beneath the edge. To agree to this does not require a leap of faith; it simple requires trust in science.

Professor O’Neill is a non-believer himself so I’m pretty sure he’s not promoting a religious agenda.

What he is doing, I believe, is unwittingly giving succour to those who actively work to discredit science in order to promote the interests of their particular god.

A recent example will illustrate the point:

Last April, religious militant and director of the Iona Institute David Quinn delivered a lecture to fifth and sixth year students falsely informing them that the origin of the universe had nothing to do with science but was strictly a matter for religion/philosophy (See full article here).

It is obvious from reading the article that the lecture had nothing to do with proper education; it was not designed to inform students about the pros and cons of science and religion. It was nothing more than a blatant piece of religious propaganda directed at New Atheism and in particular Richard Dawkins.

Unlike professor O’Neill’s casual attitude towards the conflict between science and religion, Quinn is deadly serious in his campaign to discredit science in support of his particular god and if that means intellectually abusing children, then so be it.

If professor O’Neill were a regular scientist working away in his laboratory, his views on the science v religion debate would be a private matter for himself.

But professor O’Neill is not a private citizen in the sense that he regularly guests on media outlets and therefore has an influence on a multitude of people.

Sadly, I believe his interview with Pay Kenny has done some damage to the cause of combating religious superstitions through the progress of science.

Copy to:
Professor O’Neill
David Quinn
Pat Kenny Show

The extremes of humanity

I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!

This was the Twitter (first from Mars) received from NASA’s robot rover ‘Curiosity’ after successfully landing on the surface of Mars.

Ten years in the planning; cost billions of dollars; travelled over 100 million miles before attempting a landing with zero room for error.

John Holdren, chief science adviser to President Obama, was justified in his response:

And if anyone has been harbouring doubts about the status of US leadership in space, well there’s a one tonne automobile-sized piece of American ingenuity sitting on the surface of the Red Planet right now.

The technology used for the landing was innovative, amazing and very, very risky.

The final stage, which saw the Lander gently lowered to the surface by a skycrane was science fiction turned to reality.

The whole mission is a testament to the intelligence, endeavour and vision of human beings.

The conflict in Syria, on the other hand, demonstrates just how ruthless human beings can be.

What’s happening in that country is just the latest incidence of what humans have been doing to each other since they came down from the trees.

And in particular what humans have been doing on a grand scale since they began organizing themselves into super sized tribes.

Technology is the key.

Humans have made massive strides in the development of technology especially since the Industrial Revolution.

While that technology has enabled the species to travel to the planets it has also, sadly, provided the tools of self-destruction.

It is this imbalance between our great ability to develop amazing technology coupled with our still relatively primitive brains that will decide our ultimate fate.

The imbalance can be compared to giving a loaded gun to a three-year old and hoping that nothing happens.

Or am I being too pessimistic?

Sensational news: Drink affects decision making

Sensational news:

Experts have found that alcohol consumption affects decision making and that the more alcohol drunk the worse the decision making gets.

This has led experts the conclude that the more alcohol a person drinks the more likely they are to have unprotected sex.

My goodness, what shocking news.

What next – that the more alcohol a person drinks the more likely they are to talk gibberish?


NASA should have asked Mary

NASA has just launched its latest mission, at a cost of $2.5 billion, to search for life on Mars.

Countless billions have already been spent by America and other countries to answer this most fundamental and important of questions for mankind.

All those billions, alas, have been wasted.

NASA may just as well have thrown all that money on a bonfire or stuffed it into a rocket and blasted it off into deep space as far as Catholic journalist Mary Kenny is concerned.

Writing in the Irish Catholic Mary tells the world:

There is nothing there. There is nothing on any of the planets in our Solar System. Earth alone has been given life, beauty and infinite variety.

Not only that but Mary goes on to lay down a challenge to the scientific world:

I’ll eat my hat, several of them, if any form of residual life is discovered on Mars.

So there you have it, it was all a gigantic waste of money and resources.

Surely it’s time for mankind to wake up and take heed of religious fundamentalists when they make absolutist statements with no supporting evidence whatsoever.