Lately, if you Criticise, Mary Lou, you get Fucking Sued, yet She Throws Insults, in the Dail every day? Sinn Fein, never Explained, the Dowdall Connection? Shane Ross, Like him, or Loathe him, is Entitled, to Free Speech, the Shinners, Dont hold Power yet, Thank God? People still have the right, of Democracy?

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Mary Lou McDonald with Jonathan Dowdall


Taoiseach says RTÉ must explain why it decided not to air interview with Shane Ross about his book on Mary Lou McDonald

 – 6h ago

RTÉ has questions to answers over its decision not to broadcast an interview with former minister Shane Ross about his biography of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, the Dáil heard today.

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

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

Mr Martin said that what he “found intriguing as well” was that apparently a political party (Sinn Féin) was given access to the interview, which may have led to “a tripping-up”.

He added: “I don’t think I was ever afforded that opportunity as a leader of the Opposition ever – that someone would say ‘have a listen to that there. Do you think we have permission to publish it?’”

Mr Martin said that “maybe that’s not exactly” what happened, but he was paraphrasing the apparent situation.

Responding to the comments in the Dáil, a Sinn Féin spokesperson this evening said the party “did not receive a copy of any interview, nor was it sought”.

They said it was “highly unusual for the Fianna Fáil leader to use Dáil time in this way, particularly when his information is completely incorrect”.

RTÉ also denied that anyone was given access to the recorded interview.

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

A Government spokesperson said tonight: “The Taoiseach was asked a question in the Dáil on Order of Business and answered in good faith.

“He gave his measured view on the need for further explanation on the interview, and that suing the national broadcaster can have a chilling effect on public debate.”

Mr Ross outlined what had happened in a first person piece in the Sunday Independent last weekend, accompanied by an RTÉ statement which asserted its right to independently decide what it might broadcast.

The issue was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe of Wexford, who said RTÉ had a duty of public service in public 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.”

The Taoiseach said he didn’t know the background to the entire case, “other than to say that such development has a chilling effect on democracy, of that there is no doubt”.

RTÉ was not broadcasting the interview and was taking a cautious position “because of a fear of being sued”, he said.

“That’s something that demands greater transparency and explanation.

“Why RTE decided not to publish (broadcast) it requires explanation.”

Mr Ross’s book is called Mary Lou McDonald, a Republican Riddle.

Asked at the weekend about the decision not to broadcast Mr Ross’s Today with Claire Byrne interview, RTÉ said: “Broadcasters have editorial independence to decide what they cover and broadcast. That is a principle the BAI acknowledge.

“With many competing stories and items each day, it is not unusual for a pre-recorded interview not to be broadcast. In this instance, we decided on other editorial priorities.”

In a new statement issued this evening, RTÉ said “no one was given access to the recorded interview”.

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

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