WHO on earth does RTE think it is kidding? It is not excessive to contend that when it came to the most dramatic act of forgery in Irish political life since the Pigott letters, RTE -- either wilfully or out of pure ignorance -- allowed itself to be lured into a web of deceit which influenced the result of the presidential election and facilitated the interests of Sinn Fein.
Sadly, the performance last week by the station and its director general Noel Curran suggests that the hubristic ethos of the Celtic Tiger has not yet been fully exorcised.
It is a measure of the lowliness of the standards that RTE now applies to itself that its response to this bogus tweet continues to resemble a bad parody of the Fianna Fail book of ethics that evolved during the Bertie Ahern era. But the excessively clever linguistic trickery surrounding RTE's initial stance that the tweet itself had not been bogus and the claims of a less than repentant station that there was no evidence that the broadcaster "deliberately concealed information" simply will not wash. Ignorance, Mr Curran, is not a defence in law, whilst the creation of a new editorial standards board is equally unconvincing in a State that has had quite enough of public bodies skipping away from historic low standards by promising to be pure in the future.
Mr Curran claimed that RTE did not have any "agendas" in the Sean Gallagher affair. On the night of the bogus tweet, RTE acknowledged it was looking for "game-changer". But when does game-changing become advancing an agenda?
Of course, when it comes to 'balance', our national broadcaster RTE adheres to the letter of the law. But in reality, it has been running wild with secretive acts of cultural cleansing for decades. There is nothing intrinsically wrong -- even in public-sector broadcasting -- with agenda-driven journalism. But RTE plays false when it advances its politics under a deceitful cloak. This guile is ultimately corrosive, for it erodes standards to the point where elements of the station, from the top to the bottom, apparently believed that they could get away with influencing the election of the First Citizen of the State with bogus documentation.
Such arrogance is somewhat understandable in the wake of the BAI report. We are all well sickened of tribunals but its claim that the Gallagher affair did not merit further public inquiry would embarrass a lap-dog. In the UK, the hacking of the phones of minor celebrities has led to a full-scale investigation. Here, by contrast, the soft probation officers of the BAI appear to believe that credible allegations of an unfair treatment of a leading candidate for the Presidency merit little more than a limply wagged finger. Even the banks at the height of the tiger could not have wished fora more toothless regulator.
RTE should not be allowed to get out of jail so easily. When it comes to a station that trades, journalistically and commercially, on its seriously devalued gold standard of being a "trusted provider of news and current affairs", only a public inquiry can resolve this issue. Pat Rabbitte has been around long enough to realise that ignorance is not a defence and evidence can only be found if you search hard enough. As for RTE, on this issue, it is kidding nobody.