RTE stands by its demand that Minister remove 'Yes' pin on TV
RTE are standing by host Brendan O'Connor's request that a Government minister remove his 'Vote Yes' pin in the middle of an interview.
The presenter was joined on The Saturday Night Show by Labour TD Aodhan O'Riordain to discuss his ministerial appointment to the portfolio of Equality, New Communities, Culture & National Drugs Strategy.
O'Connor interrupted his interview with the Dublin North Central TD to ask him to remove his 'Vote Yes' pin.
"Can you take off that pin? The pin you're wearing on your collar," he asked him.
Mr O Riordain complied explaining that there it was a 'Yes pin' as he removed it.
"You just made it worse," O'Connor said and went on to say that he would say 'No' to balance the politician's 'yes'.
Speaking to the Herald, Minister O'Riordain said that he was surprised to be asked to take off the badge and that he found the whole thing "a little bit silly".
"I didn't want to make a big deal out of it," he said.
"I think I had seen it worn by other people being interviewed by RTE such as Leo Varadaker on Prime Time.
"It's very subtle, I don't think it would have caused much offense, I think to do it that way just drew unnecessary attention to it."
The minister said he was concerned that people were being distracted from the main issues ahead of the May 22 vote.
"We only have days left to do something historic and it won't happen by itself," Minister O'Riordain said.
Viewers reacted angrily to the incident and took to social media to express their disappointment with the State broadcaster, however RTE stood by the move.
"Mindful of the need for fairness, and in consideration of RTE's own guidelines on the wearing of emblems, the Minister was asked to remove his badge, which he did," a spokesperson said.
Recently RTE issued strict guidelines to all staff and freelancers advising them not to weigh in publically on the upcoming debate.
Just this week the Herald reported that RTE radio presenter Scott de Butleir resigned as a result of the neutrality guidelines. The DJ stepped down as presenter of the LGBT show The Cosmo on RTE Pulse, the broadcaster's digital arm.
Remaining neutral on the issue would be 'counterintuitive' he said, telling the Herald that he clashed with bosses last week about an interview with Aodhan O'Riordain.
The openly gay radio host raised the issue of the referendum with the minister and RTE were "furious" he said.
However, RTE declined to comment on the reasons for De Butlier giving up his voluntary position with the broadcaster and wished him every success in the future.