RTE's board not consulted over payout in Pantigate
Published 06/02/2014 | 02:30
RTE's board was not consulted ahead of the payout of €85,000 in a settlement over the so-called Pantigate homophobia comments.
The national broadcaster is being called before an Oireachtas communications committee to discuss the controversy over the homophobia debate.
It follows comments made by drag artist Rory O'Neill, who performs under the stage name of Miss Panti, during an interview in which he referred to the debate on legislation for same-sex marriage and adoption.
Mr O'Neill named journalists John Waters and Breda O'Brien as well as the Iona Institute.
Mr Waters and Ms O'Brien are understood to have been recompensed – as was David Quinn, head of the Iona Institute, and other institute members.
The apology by the station and the settlement has provoked controversy and hundreds of complaints to the watchdog.
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said those involved in public debate should not reach for the defamation laws to vindicate their points to view.
But the RTE executive who took the decision to pay the settlement has insisted it would have been "reckless" to go to court.
RTE Television managing director Glen Killane confirmed there was an €85,000 payout over the comments on the 'Saturday Night Show'.
Mr Killane said: "We were very, very unlikely to win a case should it go to the courts."
He said his legal advice was the payout would have been a "multiple of what we settled" if the case had gone to court.
"It was my view it would have been reckless to pursue this matter through the courts," he added.
Mr Killane said the decision to pay the settlement was "taken by me" and while RTE director general Noel Curran was involved in the "process" the RTE Authority was not consulted on the settlement.
"I want to reassure you that RTE explored every option available to it, including right of reply," he told colleagues.
Meanwhile, a Fianna Fail senator criticised what he described as "dangerous, vicious elements within the gay ideological movement".
Jim Walsh was speaking in the Seanad about the need for an open debate on what he called "a matter or social re-engineering".
Mr Walsh was objecting to abuse directed at opponents of gay marriage, and he asked for a debate on freedom of speech with Mr Rabbitte.
"Can we deal with these dangerous, vicious elements in the gay ideological movement?" he said.
Labour Party senator Ivana Bacik said there was no such thing as the "gay ideological movement".
"Senator Walsh is making himself ridiculous," she said.