'Pantigate' row rumbles on as journalist takes extended leave
Published 23/02/2014 | 02:30
Journalist John Waters has taken extended leave from the Irish Times following the fallout from a defamation case he has settled with RTE.
Mr Waters took the decision following the backlash he received over his legal action against the national broadcaster for comments made by Rory O'Neill on The Saturday Night Show last month.
His weekly Friday column has not appeared in the newspaper since January 31.
It is not known if or when Mr Waters will return.
The columnist took the decision less than two weeks after a letter was sent on his behalf to fellow Irish Times columnist Una Mullally.
As a result of the letter, Ms Mullally's column was edited to omit a reference to Mr Waters.
The article, which appeared in the newspaper under the headline 'Watchdog needed ahead of LGBT rights debate', was changed in the online version on January 20 and the web headline now reads: 'Homophobia watchdog needed before marriage equality referendum.'
Mr Waters is one of the country's highest-paid columnists and also writes for the Mail on Sunday but his column did not appear last week.
Neither Mr Waters nor the Irish Times were available for comment at the time of going to print.
Meanwhile, fellow Irish Times columnist Breda O'Brien has spoken of the difficulty she faced following the legal action that she took as a result of the same comments made on The Saturday Night Show.
In an interview with RTE's Marian Finucane, Ms O'Brien spoke of a "chilling effect" that she said she had experienced as a result of her views on same-sex marriage.
"The circumstance in which it arose, the whole debate arose, was that we were very aware that it was very difficult for people to say anything to query anything about same-sex marriage or gay marriage without enduring quite serious consequences."
She added: "There is a chilling effect when people feel they're going to be called a homophobe if they express any doubts at all about the rights of children in relation to gay marriage."
Ms O'Brien also accused RTE of failing to take seriously the complaints made by members of the Iona Institute following the interview.
And she insisted the threat of legal action could have been avoided if the national broadcaster had apologised.
"There was a really easy way out of it. If they had just said 'we're sorry', none of this would have happened.
"The money only entered into it at a stage when we felt they weren't taking us seriously.
"What they were offering was like 'we're sorry if you're offended'," she said.
"They weren't taking seriously, I felt, their responsibilities as public service broadcasters.
"It's in the broadcasting guidelines; it's in the broadcasting act, a space for fair and reasonable debate."
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