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Saturday 20 September 2014

Designer slammed for 'virgins' quip

Published 13/06/2014 | 17:02

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Paul Costelloe sparked controversy with comments made on a radio show

A fashion designer who talked about Irish emigrants "damaging" young English virgins has been criticised by a broadcasting watchdog.

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Paul Costelloe, whose label is sold by British retail giants House of Fraser and John Lewis, sparked controversy with his comments on an RTE radio programme.

Asked about young Irish men moving to London - where Mr Costelloe is based - he told The Business programme that they are "doing great and damaging a lot of young English virgins".

The designer, who has been at the helm of British high street fashion for decades and established his brand at a flagship store in London's Knightsbridge, went on to wish the young men luck.

"The English, they love us and they hate us, you know, you just have to put up with that," he said.

"Certainly the Irish are never short of chatting up and, you know, we have that skill and I'm sure these young guys are doing great and damaging a lot of young English virgins, so there you are, and good luck to them."

The remarks to the popular show's then-presenter George Lee drew a slew of complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

One upset listener, Barbara Smith, branded the comments repugnant and dangerous to women.

She said the presenter should have challenged Mr Costelloe and also complained that a text message sent in to the show criticising the remarks was laughed off.

RTE agreed a number of listeners were offended by the designer's comments, which it accepted could be construed as a flamboyant and heavy-handed description of young Irish men living in London.

But the broadcaster argued it was a throwaway remark during a live programme on a side issue to the main thrust of the interview, which was first aired on February 1.

Furthermore, it said the presenter later challenged Mr Costelloe on the back of a listener's text message, asking him: "Does that mean you are a chauvinist?"

The designer rejected the suggestion but the BAI upheld the complaint.

The watchdog said The Business programme could not have complete control over guests in a live on-air scenario, but pointed out mechanisms such as a delay button and also flagged up the presenter's key role in dealing with on-air risks.

"It was the opinion of the committee, following its review of the material, that the manner in which sexual relationships were described by the guest would cause undue offence and that the programme makers had not taken due care in the way in which the comments were handled during the programme," it said in a ruling.

"In particular, it was the view of the committee that the presenter's tone and his answer to his own question in respect of whether his guest had displayed chauvinism did not display due care in respect of the sensitivity of listeners who, in the opinion of the committee, might reasonably view the comment as offensive."

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