Monday 24 October 2016

BAI rejects complaints that Paul Williams 'was freely allowed to vilify Sinn Féin voters' on Late Late Show

Amy Molloy

Published 15/09/2016 | 16:16

Journalist Paul Williams
Journalist Paul Williams

The broadcasting watchdog has rejected two complaints against The Late Late Show after journalist Paul Williams made comments in respect of the Special Criminal Court and Sinn Féin voters.

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The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland has unanimously ruled out two complaints which related to an episode back in February this year.

RTÉ invited the Irish Independent crime correspondent on the show to discuss the Kinahan-Hutch feud after the murders of David Byrne in the Regency Hotel and Eddie Hutch, brother of Gerry "The Monk" Hutch.

While on air, Williams profiled the big players in the gangland feud – giving a background on how it all began.

Towards the end of the interview, the crime journalist turned his attention to the topic of the Special Criminal Court, which had been hotly contested during the general election, with Sinn Féin leading the calls for it to be abolished.

Williams said the Court was the State’s “most important weapon” against organised gangland crime.

“The only people who will vote for Sinn Féin, in regard to that part of their manifesto are the drug dealers, the killers and the kidnappers and the terrorists,” Williams told Tubridy, who then tried to avert the conversation.

“No wonder the guys walking on Francis Street were smirking – because they heard about this legislation. ‘Thank God, Sinn Féin are going to get rid of that, we’re going to vote for them.”

While RTÉ received 128 formal complaints, only two proceeded to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, who has now rejected them by a majority vote.

One of the complainants, Mr Enda Fanning, alleged “The presenter allowed him to condemn and vilify those who vote for Sinn Féin. The complainant believes that there is no doubt that Mr Williams’ comments were an attempt to harm Sinn Féin in the then forthcoming General Election.”

In rejecting the complaint, the Compliance Committee said Mr Williams’ comments had context and his assertions that Sinn Féin wanted to abolish the Special Criminal Court were “factual.”

In addressing the remarks about only drug dealers and terrorists supporting Sinn Féin’s calls for the Special Criminal Court to be abolished, the Committee ruled that the comments only related to some segments of Sinn Féin voters and they “did not  agree  that  it  amounted  to  a comment on supporters of this party as a whole, as stated by the complainant.”

The BAI also said Mr Tubridy responded adequately by trying to cut the conversation off, and as it was a live show, Mr Williams’ comments would have been "unplanned"

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