A Chilling Effect, on Democracy, says Michael Martin, Is RTE under a Threat of Defamation, from Sinn Fein, are the Shinners, Above Criticism?

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RTÉ’s Dee Forbes faces grilling over ditched Shane Ross interview about Mary Lou McDonald book

12th October 2022

RTÉ director general Dee Forbes faces being called before the Oireachtas Media Committee to discuss the decision to ditch an interview with former transport minister Shane Ross about his biography of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Deputy Government Whip Brendan Griffin wrote to the committee asking that Ms Forbes be invited to a meeting to explain the broadcaster’s decision not to air an interview with Mr Ross about his book ‘Mary Lou McDonald: A Republican Riddle’.

The committee will meet today to discuss the proposal from the Fine Gael TD.

It comes after Taoiseach Micheál Martin said RTÉ has questions to answers over its decision not to broadcast an interview with Mr Ross.

Mr Martin said: “Such development has a chilling effect on democracy.”

The Taoiseach suggested the national broadcaster was “taking a cautious position here because of a fear of being sued”, with RTÉ already the subject of a defamation action by Ms McDonald. The decision not to broadcast a recorded interview with Mr Ross, which had been slated to air on the Today with Claire Byrne show on RTÉ Radio 1, was “something that demands greater transparency”, he said.

He surmised that the station was being conservative, considering it was being sued by a “person of heft and clout” in the person of Ms McDonald.

RTÉ said no one was given access to the recorded interview after Mr Ross suggested the station proposed that they would do so before broadcast.

“In this instance, the decision not to broadcast was an editorial decision and was not influenced by any legal issues,” it added.

Mr Ross outlined what had happened in the Sunday Independent of October 9. The issue was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe, who said RTÉ had a duty of public service in broadcasting.

Mr Kehoe said: “I’m not sure what they are afraid of, or who they are afraid of – but this is censorship of the highest order.

“And I believe it could have some very serious consequences for the national broadcaster. And it’s a very worrying development.

“Shane Ross was able to give an interview to Newstalk, Today FM, and various other independent radio stations. RTÉ, I believe, has questions to answer.”

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