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Saturday 17 November 2018

Former RTE TV chief brands station 'anti-gay'

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in RTE studios on Sunday
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in RTE studios on Sunday

Sam Griffin

A former RTE director of television has accused the station of being "anti-woman" and "anti-gay" and said she had "to escape" from the homophobic abuse she suffered while working there.

Helen O'Rahilly - who has held a number of high-ranking positions with international broadcasters and other independent stations - also said there had been a "deeply flawed management system" within RTE that prevented gay and lesbian people from being promoted to executive level.

Ms O'Rahilly, a former deputy controller at the BBC, made the comments on Twitter following media coverage of Health Minister Leo Varadkar publicly coming out about his sexuality at the weekend.

"The list of RTE homophobes would give you chills … all happy to be such in 2000 not now in 2015," she tweeted.

"Maybe it's time to go public with the 'great and the good' who caused heartache and misery to so many gay people?"

Ms O'Rahilly said that because of her sexuality and gender, she and her colleagues suffered "side-lining, vitriol, barbed comments", which she said were "all on record still in a top lawyer's office in Dublin".

She said that because of her history with RTE she was also unhappy with perceptions that the national broadcaster was considered "accepting" of gay and lesbian people.

"I am sick to death of RTE now being the benign channel of acceptance of homosexuality when it was a bastion of creaking, ancient codes," she tweeted to her followers.

"It was fine to be a woman Director at RTE….just not a GAY one!

"Once they found out I was a big Gayer, RTE wasn't that happy about having me on screen or on public forums …."

On one occasion, she said "robust RTE boys" hid from her when she met them at a Six Nations rugby game when she returned to Ireland as a senior BBC executive a year after leaving RTE.

She praised Mr Varadkar, as well as gay rights campaigner Panti Bliss and broadcaster Dil Wickremasinghe.

"So, delighted about @campaignforleo and for @PantiBliss before him. Those of us who suffered in corporate roles celebrate the new openness," she tweeted.

Ms O'Rahilly previously criticised 'The Late Late Show' and RTE's handling of the Fr Kevin Reynolds affair.

An RTE spokesperson said the station would not be commenting on the claims.

Irish Independent

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