One of RTE's most high profile political reporters told the family of Jean McConville -- the mother of 10 who was kidnapped and killed by the IRA in 1972 -- "Please do not send any more of this obnoxious crap to me".
Eoin O Murchu, who is Raidio na Gaeltachta's political editor, replied to an email message sent to his personal and RTE accounts from Helen McConville and the McKendry family in which they called on the new government to see if there is a prima facie case for reporting Gerry Adams to the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague.
His response led to criticism from Liam Kennedy, the Queens University professor of economic and social history, who wrote: "I've just had forwarded to me an astonishing email from within RTE, in which Helen McConville's latest press statement is described as 'obnoxious crap'. This shows remarkable cruelty to someone who has suffered so much. Surely an RTE journalist should have a bit more sensitivity and human decency, irrespective of what he or she thinks about Helen McConville's campaign."
Mr O Murchu, who was off-duty and recovering from a stroke, was unrepentant last Friday.
"I think the campaign is totally dishonest. Yes, Jean McConville was murdered in the most appalling circumstances. Lots of terrible things happened during the struggle [but] to try and blame Gerry Adams and to interfere with our political process on the basis of that is I think, quite out of court. That's just a personal view. Adams should be judged on what he has to say on the economy, the political issues of the day and all these questions."
In the original email sent by the McConville campaign circulated to news journalists, Helen McConville thanked the people of Louth.
"Our visits to County Louth have been inspirational. Irrespective of the outcome of the election -- and we know the great majority of electors will not support Mr Adams -- we want to say how deeply touched we are by the warmth, friendliness and support of the people who have welcomed us in Carlingford, Cooley, Dundalk, Drogheda and elsewhere. Templetown and Schelling Hill beaches will always be sacred places to us.
"The abduction, torture and disappearance of Jean McConville, and the suffering inflicted on her 10 orphaned children, cry out for justice. More than a dozen others were 'disappeared' by the IRA. My view is that these were crimes against humanity. They were war crimes."
RTE said yesterday that the station must be seen to be "fair to all political parties and candidates" and that it will now conduct a full investigation into Mr O Murchu's action. "It should be noted, for clarity, that Mr O Murchu is not working on RTE Raidio na Gaeltachta's Election 2011 coverage as he is out on sick leave following a serious illness," the station said in a statement yesterday.