The view of the Communications Minister
On Friday, Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, issued this statement:
"Speaking personally, I have never used the term 'homophobe' to describe those who disagree with me on issues of gay equality in general or gay marriage in particular. It is too loaded a term to be used to categorise those who hold contrary views on what is a matter for legitimate public debate.
"That said, I would also hope that people and institutions that hold themselves out as commentators on, or contributors to, public debate fully appreciate – as most politicians do – that debate can be robust, heated, personal and sometimes even hostile. If you enter the arena, you cannot expect that the Queensbury Rules will always apply.
"It would be a matter of serious concern if recourse to our defamation laws was to have a chilling effect on the conduct of public debate on this issue in the lead-in to the forthcoming referendum on gay marriage.
"I have no intention of interfering in RTE's management of the litigation claims against it. But I do expect that RTE remains fully committed to its chief obligation as a public service broadcaster – to ensure the full and free exchange of information and opinion on all matters of legitimate public interest."