Thursday 27 November 2014

Senator calls on Pat Rabbitte to explain RTE’s ‘financial compensation’ to members of Iona Institute on foot of legal complaint against

Senator Averil Power made her comments in Seanad earlier today

Published 30/01/2014 | 16:30

A senator has called on Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to come to the Seanad and discuss revelations that RTE paid “financial compensation” to people associated to the Iona Institute on foot of a legal complaint against RTE.

Senator Averil Power has called on Mr Rabbitte to come to the Seanad to discuss the case with members of the upper house.

Speaking in the chamber earlier today, Sen Power said the minister needed to “discuss the recent revelations that RTE paid financial compensation to individuals associated to the Iona Institute in response to complaints about Rory O’Neill’s interview on the Saturday Night Show”.

“I think it is incumbent upon the minister to appear in this house and advise members how much was paid to Iona on foot of that complaint,” she said.

She also wants to know if the Iona institute were offered other “remedies” and if RTE were prepared to legally fight any threatened defamation action.

“Were other remedies offered to the organisation such as a right to reply and were those more appropriate remedies, in my view, refused by that organisation.

“Did RTE give any serious consideration to argue the honest opinion defence in any threatened defamation action.”

Mr Rabbitte should “outline to the house if he believes RTE acted appropriately given its responsibility as a public service broadcaster to ensure balanced debate on issues of public importance”, she said.

“RTE has a responsibility to ensure that all voices are heard, not just those with the deepest pockets.

“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.

“The motivation of the Iona Institute in bringing this case is very clear.

“They’re afraid of the referendum. They’re afraid of the fact that we had constitutional convention where people heard both sides of the debate over the course of two days and at the end, 80pc of those people voted for equality.

“They voted to put behind the prejudices and discrimination of the past and ensure all Irish citizens are treated equally. That’s what they’re afraid of. They can’t win that debate.

“They can’t win a fair and open debate.

“[They] have influence. I think that’s what they’re trying to influence here. And RTE has a reponsiblity to ensure that no organisation can dictate the terms just because they are influential or have powerful backers.

“So I call on the leader to invite the minister to discuss this very serious issue and what steps he will take to ensure such a dangerous precedent will not be followed in the future.”

By Jane Last

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