Comic Norton shows support for Panti in RTE payout row
FUNNYMAN Graham Norton said RTE's decision to pay out €85,000 in damages over remarks made by a gay rights activist was "unbelievable".
The Cork-born BBC star admitted that he had not followed the story until yesterday, but questioned RTE's decision to award damages to a number of journalists and the Iona Institute over claims made on 'The Saturday Night Show', hosted by Brendan O'Connor.
He sent a message of support on Twitter to Panti Bliss – AKA Rory O'Neill – who made the claims on the January 11 edition of the programme. Mr Norton tweeted: "I'm ashamed to say I didn't (read) the back story until this morning. Unbelievable!"
Norton also urged his more than 650,000 followers to watch a speech about homophobia performed by Panti at the Abbey Theatre last weekend.
Meanwhile, an Irish MEP accused RTE of censorship during a debate on homophobia in the EU Parliament.
Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy labelled it a "real attack on the freedom of speech".
"National broadcaster, RTE, has censored Rory O'Neill for calling out homophobia, even worse than that, it has paid out €85,000 reportedly in damages to those accused of homophobia," he told the EU Parliament.
"It's an attack by the right- wing conservative forces in Ireland, acceded to by RTE, designed to censor debate in advance of a likely referendum on marriage equality. We must refuse to be silenced."
Other high-profile people have announced their support for Panti, including Senator David Norris.
RTE paid out a total of €85,000 to six people over claims made by Panti during an interview.
The parties included journalists John Waters and Breda O'Brien, and David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, and other institute members.
All six litigants were offered the opportunity of a right to reply, but all declined.
RTE has not commented on claims that damages were to be paid to individuals. Last night a spokeswoman said: "RTE is committed to providing coverage and facilitating debate that is fair, impartial and accurate.