independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

RTE's 'The Saturday Night Show' to host debate on homophobia

BRENDAN O'CONNOR
2HFBRENDAN2.jpg
Brendan O'Connor

RTE's The Saturday Night Show is set to host a debate on homophobia this week following recent controversy on the topic.

The show, presented by Brendan O’Connor, came under fire for an interview with performer and gay rights activist Rory O'Neill, who performs under the drag name Miss Panti Bliss, on show on January 11.

A statement from RTE confirmed: "The Saturday Night Show will host a debate on homophobia; what constitutes homophobia and who gets to define the word?"

The panellists for the debate will be announced later this week.

Meanwhile, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has been called on to justify RTE's controversial decision to pay compensation to Iona Institute officials after a row over a TV interview.

Fianna Fail senator Averil Power said Mr Rabbitte must reveal whether he believes the national broadcaster "acted appropriately" by paying compensation, a move she said has set a "dangerous precedent".

According to Ms Power, the Iona Institute brought the case due to their fears that the upcoming referendum on same-sex marriage will be carried.

Comments were made about John Waters, writer Breda O'Brien and the Catholic organisation The Iona Institute. None were in the studio.

RTE removed the episode of the chat show from its online digital player. It later re-uploaded the episode but with Mr O'Neill's segment removed for "potential legal reasons".

Brendan O'Connor, the host of the show, later apologised for any "upset or distress" caused, after a legal complaint.

Ms Power, who is a senator in Dublin Bay North, said that RTE had paid financial compensation to The Iona Institute – and it was now incumbent on the Labour minister to tell the Seanad how much.

She also queried whether the Iona institute was offered other "remedies" and if RTE was prepared to legally fight any threatened defamation action.

Fianna Fail senator Jim Walsh appeared to differ with his party colleague, claiming that the comments in question were defamatory. Labour leader in the Seanad, Ivana Bacik, said this was a matter of view.

But Ms Power said: "I think that the revelations in the media over the last few days about this financial payment sets a dangerous precedent ahead of the referendum on marriage equality that has been promised by the Government."

RTE has said that it would not be commenting on claims that damages were to be paid to individuals as a result of comments made on the show.

Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent

Irish Independent

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