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Monday 22 July 2019

Fine Gael TDs back Pat Rabbitte's attack on RTé

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

RTé is facing a further Government backlash as members of Fine Gael rowed in behind a scathing attack by former Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte.

During a heated Dáil debate over Irish Water, Mr Rabbitte accused RTé of being a "recruiting sergeant" for groups protesting against water charges.

The issue was also discussed at Labour's parliamentary party meeting and senior Fine Gael sources said the party had "lot of sympathy" for Mr Rabbitte's comments.

"A lot of Fine Gael TDs would share Pat's view. Ministers regularly complain about the coverage and treatment they get from the station," the source said.

Fine Gael figures were incensed by RTé's decision to publish an interactive map of where the first wave of nationwide protests were held last year. "It wasn't very helpful for us," a senior party source said.

But in a statement, Communications Minister Alex White's office said he did not involve himself in the running of the broadcaster and would not comment on complaints against the station.

"RTÉ is an independent national public service broadcaster. The minister has no function in the management of RTÉ's day-to-day affairs, including decisions around programming. Nor does the minister have a role in dealing with complaints made against the corporation," a spokesperson said. Political rumblings about the State broadcaster's coverage of water charges reached fever pitch this week when Mr Rabbitte attacked RTé in the Dáil.

"RTé's coverage may have entertained, but no sensible taxpayer or citizen could argue that it has informed or educated on the water issue," he said.

"RTé has acted as a recruiting sergeant for those who have taken control of and are manipulating the water protests. There must be people in RTé who know that Ireland alone in the EU doesn't have a water charge," he added.

The station has since rejected Mr Rabbitte's accusations.

In a statement, RTÉ said it "absolutely refutes" the claims of imbalanced coverage of the introduction of water charges.

Mr Rabbitte will appear on RTé's 'The Week in Politics' programme tomorrow, where he will debate his views with former Press Ombudsman John Horgan.

Irish Independent

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