Thursday 12 December 2019

Church claim of RTE 'bias' is rejected

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A COMPLAINT by the Catholic Church of unfair treatment by RTE in a programme dealing with the teaching of religion in the new state primary schools has been rejected by a broadcasting watchdog.

But the church has challenged the finding by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), in relation to a 'Prime Time' programme broadcast last April.

It explored how the new schools approached the thorny issue of religious education for pupils from a wide range of faiths, and none.

A particularly controversial aspect of that is the separation of children along religious lines at certain times within the school day for faith formation.

The complaint to the BAI was in the name of Martin Long, Director of Communications with Catholic Church. He said there were inaccuracies and a lack of balance in the programme, resulting in "agenda-driven journalism which was particularly hostile towards the Catholic Church".

He said the programme falsely portrayed the church as having an agenda and influence on religions education in the schools, which it did not have or seek to have.

Mr Long described a statement by Labour education spokesman Ruairi Quinn on the programme to the effect that the Catholic bishops had "hijacked the new state schools" as "blatantly untrue and set a negative tone".

In a strong rebuttal, RTE said the programme raised important issues about a new school model and the executive secretary of the Irish Episcopal Conference, Monsignor James Cassin, participated in the studio discussion.

Rejecting the church's complaint, the BAI ruled that it was given a fair hearing.

A complaint by City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee that the programme misrepresented the religious education in the schools was upheld.

Irish Independent

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