RTE flooded with complaints over 'soft and poor' Michaella TV interview as backlash grows
RTE has been blitzed with negative comments from viewers in relation to the controversial interview with drug mule Michaella McCollum.
The 23-year-old Tyrone woman's first interview since leaving jail in Peru has created a storm, with many criticising the state broadcaster's "soft" approach and "poor" line of questioning.
Last night RTE confirmed, after persistent questioning from the Herald, that the 83 calls and emails received so far were "largely negative feedback".
In relation to official complaints, RTE said: "We won't be in a position to confirm the number of official complaints until later in the week."
It also stated neither McCollum nor any member of her family was paid by RTE.
However, when asked whether expenses to Michaella or her family were paid, RTE declined to comment, describing the issue as "commercially sensitive".
Sunday night's interview was watched by an average of 550,000 people.
"RTE can confirm that neither Michaella McCollum nor any member of her family was paid for the interview," they said in a statement.
"Nor did RTE make any contribution to any fund relating to Michaella McCollum."
The station also admitted that McCollum's story was both "controversial and divisive", but defended the programme.
"This was McCollum's first media interview since her original arrest in 2013 and during the course of the interview she made many frank admissions about the damage her actions may have caused," said an RTE spokesman.
"RTE has a strong track record in highlighting the harm caused to individuals and society by illegal drugs and we welcome the public discussion generated by this programme."
Meanwhile, the country's leading addiction activists, including Fr Peter McVerry and Gemma Collins, consider the programme irrelevant.
Fr McVerry, who heads Dublin's busiest addiction service, said the interview benefited nobody.
"A programme like that won't have an influence on anybody," Fr McVerry told the Herald.
"Anybody who is thinking that way already knows they can make a lot of money from smuggling.
"Anybody who isn't thinking that way already knows it is a dead road."
Gemma Collins, who works with children addicted to drugs in Dublin's north-inner city, believes the interview "glamorised" drug smuggling.
The manager of the Crinan Youth Project has warned the programme may encourage people to commit smuggling offences.
"I was left thinking if I was a young person watching that, and she is after getting out after two-and-a-half years, I might be thinking it's worth the risk," said Ms Collins.