independent

Monday 21 April 2014

I don't know why nobody took him on sooner - Barry

The only journalist to ask Sir Jimmy Savile about child-abuse allegations after they were first aired in a television documentary a few years ago has spoken of her disbelief that more people didn't pursue a similar line of questioning.

Newstalk presenter Orla Barry says she was taken aback to discover that more journalists had not put the question to the disgraced children's television presenter, given the prominence of the rumours when he was alive.

The outspoken broadcaster also described the alleged paedophile's response when she probed him about the scandal live on air as being incredibly "shady".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, she said it frightens her to think how something could have been done to stop the sex offender if more people had asked the necessary questions.

"I believe that if you feel there are questions to be asked about someone in the public eye, which are in the public interest, then it is important that people step up and ask those questions.

"In light of all that's come out, it makes you wonder if more people asked these questions a lot earlier then people could have put a stop to what he was doing," she said. "It certainly is a depressing thought."

Describing her on-air conversation with the alleged paedophile, Ms Barry explained: "When I asked him if he had heard the rumours, he replied with 'what rumours?' It immediately struck me as a bit odd.

"He had been plagued by them over the years and they had even featured in a documentary about him by Louis Theroux.

"He knew what I was referring to and yet completely denied having any knowledge of them. So he struck me as a man who had something to hide.

"Because he gave such a shady response the questioning went on a lot longer. His odd response required me to keep putting the question to him," she added. The Newstalk presenter also described how she did not balk at putting the question to Savile -- given the extent of the sordid tales at the time: "A question like that is always very uncomfortable to ask and you know it's not going to make you the most popular person in the world to ask it. But it would have been remiss of me if I hadn't and I knew I would regret it if I didn't.

"In saying that, however, I wasn't uncomfortable going into it or thinking of the consequences because to be honest there were so many rumours about him out there that I didn't think it would be that much of a big deal to actually put it to him."

Describing the veteran TV star as "a man in a very powerful position", who was "able to frighten people around him if they asked too many questions", she acknowledged the fact that he could "make [people] fear what he would do to their careers".

She said: "It's only over the last few days that I realised that no one had really put the question to him. I just assumed because there were so many rumours going around that they had.

"I find it very strange that more people didn't -- given the fact that there was so much talk about his personal life. It is strange. Maybe in the UK they were slightly closer to him."

Describing the public's reaction to her interrogation, the presenter said: "I remember receiving a mixed reaction at the time. Some of our listeners were cross -- they felt I had over-stepped the line, while others said fair play for not ignoring the elephant in the room.

"But within the industry there wasn't a lot of talk about it really. It was aired at half nine in the morning, on a prime time slot, but there wasn't much thought given to it. It is only afterwards that people realise the extent of it -- it's shocking and horrific."

The seasoned journalist, who has presented with Newstalk 106-108FM since 2003, said she would not be surprised if Irish victims now come forward, given his time spent working with charities here.

"Considering everything that's happened and what's come out, I wouldn't be so surprised -- especially with what we've heard over the past few days. How it was happening in hospitals, the staff were telling children to pretend to be asleep. Some victims here may come forward -- they may be more inclined to now."

Savile, who died a year ago, was one of Britain's best-known entertainers.

The Queen had given him a knighthood and he received countless honours for the millions of pounds he raised for charity -- particularly children's charities.

However, in recent weeks a mountain of evidence has emerged that for decades he abused under-age girls, some as young as nine years old.

The BBC has confirmed it will launch an internal investigation once police enquiries into the abuse have concluded.

The Scotland Yard-led investigation follows an ITV documentary accusing the late star of Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It of being a paedophile who preyed on young girls for decades and escaped censure because of his high profile.

ON AIR. . . WHAT SAVILE SAID

Speaking in the interview with Orla Barry in 2007, the Jim'll Fix It star claims he had never heard of the claims of sex abuse: "Oh. . . Never heard of it in my life. . . Now you see when you get a documentary like that, what they do is they keep prodding you and. . . what they hope is that you will fall out with them. And then they think that makes good television."

When asked again had he heard the rumours and allegations, the BBC DJ replies: "No, no. . . I have a life out[side] Jim'll Fix It. . . We don't listen to things like that. . . If anybody says things like that there's no problem, because all you can expect from a pig is a grunt."

Later, Savile responded to questions about why he never married, saying: "If there were a Mrs Savile there would be no Mr Savile. . . cowards like me don't get married, we run away . . . I couldn't see a good argument for it [marriage] anyway."

Sunday Independent

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