Liamy Mac Nally
What was the Prime Time team thinking of during last week’s televised Presidential debate on RTÉ One? In my opinion, it was nothing short of a national embarrassment. The programme was an exercise in shame and arrogance, ignoring good manners, fair play and common sense. It lacked all sense of justice.
Prime Time is also the programme that refused to accept the word of Fr Kevin Reynolds from Ahascragh when he told them that he did not rape a minor and father a child while a missionary in Kenya. He even offered to take a paternity test before the programme was broadcast, but no, RTÉ, in all its raging glory, declined. The national broadcaster ploughed onwards, head in the clouds and broadcast the programme, even with its cynical title, ‘A Mission to Prey’. It seems any kind of insult is fair game for anything to do with Catholicism. The programme was broadcast, Fr Reynolds was libelled, RTÉ apologised, lawyers are laughing and Prime Time has learned nothing.
Martin McGuinness protested to Miriam O’Callaghan after last week’s Prime Time show over the way she treated him. “Trial by television,” he claimed. I believe he was right. The questions and the manner of the interview were disgraceful, ranging from when he was at confession to accusing him of being involved in the “murder of so many people.”
Accusing a priest of raping a minor and fathering a child is one level but to go further and accuse a man of several murders beggars belief. To add insult to injury a question was then posed to all the other candidates if they thought Martin McGuinness would be a suitable President. A similar question about any other candidate was not asked. And this, coming from the national broadcaster, staffed by a team of producers, presenters, directors and journalists, many of whom are paid six-figure sums (augmented by the taxpayer) to carry out their work! You couldn’t script it!
At this stage, apologies are no longer of any credence from the Prime Time team. To me, they have dented the integrity of those in RTÉ whose work ethic is intent on high standards, ethics and the arrow of truth. Many of us remember the attempt at a Corrib Gas Project programme some years ago. If the Prime Time team is so intent on ‘investigative journalism’ then why have they not thoroughly investigated the natural resources travesty in the country?
The terms ‘RTÉ’ and ‘Prime Time’ are like ‘the department’ and ‘the HSE,’ - general terms that real people with real names can often hide behind without being brought forward to accept responsibility for their actions. With the HSE ready to impose a new round of cuts on vulnerable people – home help hours cut, personal assistants cut for people with disabilities – will there be one person from the HSE who will stand up and admit, “I made that decision”? Answers on a postcard…
National broadsheets reported last weekend that RTÉ admitted that they received over 100 complaints about the Prime Time Presidential debate programme. The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland also admitted to receiving some complaints. I am not a Martin McGuinness fan and he does not need me to defend him. We, as licence payers, tax payers and citizens of this country should not condone any person being treated, or rather mistreated, in this way by RTÉ.
It is disturbing that a person who has been to the forefront in bringing peace to this island can be vilified in such a manner, harping back to his actions of 40 years ago. The irony of the history of all Irish political parties seems to have been lost on RTÉ. The three main parties – FG, Labour and FF – all sprung out of or shared in violent backgrounds. Fine Gael should not forget it especially, even when some party members appear to make it a daily ritual to malign Martin McGuinness. Someone should whisper “Michael Collins’ 12 apostles” to Fine Gael every time Gay Mitchell vilifies Martin McGuinness.
When St Peter attempted to admonish St Patrick when he returned to heaven after taking one too many on St Patrick’s Day, St Patrick just whispered ‘Cock-a-doodle-do’ to St Peter. A cock crowing is a sore point with Peter! History should be sore points with all parties, not just Sinn Féin.
The fallout from the RTÉ debate will be interesting. Note how they will defend themselves - the nameless and the faceless – even if Miriam O’Callaghan has to take some flak for being the mouthpiece. Roll on polling day – at least RTÉ cannot televise people’s votes… not yet!