Wednesday 20 November 2019

Rabbitte slams RTE's 'constant negative commentary about Irish Water'

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte

Sam Griffin

FORMER Minister Pat Rabbitte has accused RTE of broadcasting a “constant negative stream of commentary about Irish Water”.

Mr Rabbitte defended his controversial comments during the week about the national broadcaster’s coverage of Irish Water. He said RTE had acted like "recruiting sergeant" for groups protesting against water charges.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, the former Labour minister said RTÉ had a “statutory obligation to do more than merely report and criticise” and said the broadcaster needed to also educate and inform.

“There is no objective observer of how this issue has been treated day in, day out, 20 times a day, (with the) constant negative stream of commentary about Irish Water,” he said.

He said there were fundamental issues why the country’s public water system is derelict and he said he had “no doubt at all” his comments were supported by his party colleagues.

However he added that his attack on RTÉ had not been choreographed.

“The point is we need €6bn for the next six to eight years to repair the water system and the question is how are we supposed to do it and yet what is being done in the manner in which it is being treated is to drive support for the elements that are manipulating the water campaign”

He said citizens would be left with accumulating debt “that they need not have incurred” because of their opposition. He said the same had happened with opposition to the bin charges which was ultimately privatised.

“That was the outcome of the last time and that is what will happen on this occasion. Ordinary law abiding citizens are being led into a situation where they are going to accumulate debt that they need not have incurred.

“It is irresponsible leadership and it being stimulated by the lopsided way in which RTE had covered this issue,” he said.

Former Press Ombudsman John Horgan said he didn’t know if Mr Rabbitte’s criticism was justified because there was no evidence to support the remarks.

Communications Minister Alex White said it was important RTÉ remained independent but that it remained open to criticism.

“I have a particular statutory responsibility in terms of broadcasting and I have no interest and no wish to disturb that fact that RTÉ should remain absolutely independent,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean it is immune to criticism. It’s open to criticism and there’s obviously a process there with the BAI which is also a body set up under statute.

He added: “I think that there is a responsibility to have critical analysis of government an the opposition. That is quite clear.”


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