THE curse of the bogus tweet has struck RTE again after the national broadcaster incorrectly announced that the terminally ill Bernie Nolan – singer with Seventies pop band the Nolan Sisters – had died.
Speaking on the late-night music and phone-in programme 'LateDate', presenter Alf McCarthy made reference to reports on Twitter that the 52-year-old singer had passed away.
Although he added that the reports were unconfirmed, it caused furore among shocked fans.
Another RTE presenter, Brian Ormond, also had to offer his apologies after tweeting incorrectly that the singer had died.
It later emerged that she had not passed away.
Realising his mistake, Ormond later tweeted: "I've just heard that Bernie Nolan has not passed. Apologies for my tweet. I saw a well- known person say she had."
Alf McCarthy also clarified the inaccuracy of his earlier report before going off air.
But that wasn't enough to stop criticism from other quarters, including from journalist Suzanne Kane from radio station 4fm. "Astonished by people's tweets, it's real life you're tweeting about. Show respect and await facts. Sloppy journalism by some who know better. Not one single news network had anything about it up. A simple bit of research and respect is all it takes. Frightening."
But it transpired that RTE was not alone. Dublin's Q102 radio station had also mistakenly reported the popular singer's death.
As the news spread, Ms Nolan's niece sent a text message, which was uploaded online to reassure fans.
Kirsty Louise Doneathy simply said: "It's not true."
This weekend, a spokesperson for RTE said: "Alf McCarthy made a reference during the programme to the fact that there were reports on Twitter that Bernie Nolan had passed away but did stress that they were unconfirmed and clarified before coming off air that they appeared to be hoax tweets."
She added: "Reporting death is a matter RTE takes very seriously and would not confirm a death having occurred without due verification."
RTE recently published guidelines for all staff members on how to manage their social networking activity in a way that would not bring the broadcaster into disrepute.
The controversy came in the same week thieves ransacked the home of the dying singer.
The thugs got away with a watch she gave to her husband as a wedding present along with a car and TV, after rampaging through the star's house.
Ms Nolan has since moved back to her family home in Surrey, England, to live out her final days as she succumbs to the cancer, which has spread to her brain, bones, liver and lungs.