Revealed: Huge number of complaints for Claire Byrne Live show on abortion referendum
RTÉ received a massive 1,277 complaints in relation to the Claire Byrne Live Referendum Special.
The programme, which broadcast on May 14, stood out because of the often raucous behaviour of the audience.
There were also some fraught exchanges between the panellists including Dr John Monaghan, Dr Peter Boylan, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and the Iona Institute’s Maria Steen.
It was widely accepted afterwards that the No side won the debate – but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested in the Dáil there was an attempt “to personalise” the campaign by targeting Dr Boylan, who is the chairperson of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The broadcaster declined to reveal details of the complaints in the immediate aftermath of the programme – but has confirmed to Independent.ie today that they received 1,277 complaints.
Approximately 92pc related to claims of unfairness towards the Yes side of the campaign.
In statement RTÉ said the show “gave both the Yes and No campaigns an equal opportunity to air their arguments, which both sides did with commitment and conviction”.
“The panel was composed of three speakers on each side of the argument and the audience was completely evenly divided between Yes and No perspectives.”
They said Ms Byrne consistently requested that speakers and audience show respect for each others point of view.
“Impartial analysis of the programme will demonstrate that, when the number of speakers on each side of the referendum question and the airtime afforded to them are both taken into account, the programme gave an equitable and fair opportunity to both sides to express their views,” the statement said.
In the region of 650,000 viewers tuned in at some point during the Monday night programme.
Amid a flurry of social media activity the average audience increased by up to 53pc as the broadcast continued.
Some 359,000 viewers on average watched the full hour and a half.
RTÉ’s second debate, which took place on Prime Time, was also marred by controversy after the No side withdrew solicitor Cora Sherlock just hours before the programme went to air.