Archive for November, 2011

Cat 'out of the bag' but no one in RTÉ can see it!

Mary Wilson missed another opportunity, on last night’s Drivetime  (Wed 23rd Nov, 2011), to point out the ‘clear and present’ double standard in RTE’s attitude to their own “rolled heads” as contrasted with those of the Church.

The second Drivetime interview with Kevin Dawson, RTÉ’s Head of Corporate Communications, on the subject of the Fr Kevin Reynolds case, had much to commend it, as did the first.

Yes. Things started well enough. But, it all began to unravel, towards the end, and Mr Dawson was effectively allowed to finish on a ‘high’.

First of all, the RTÉ representative was left unchallenged after he tried to explain away the high-speed monotone in which last week’s first apology was read out:

“although, there were  some technical issues there, qualitative issues, it wasn’t any kind of an emblem of RTE being half-hearted about delivering the apology. The apology is very fully meant.”

(hard to take seriously, one is tempted to think, given the undoubted talent that RTÉ has at its disposal).

That was followed by  a ‘straw man’ question from Ms Wilson, ‘straw-man’ in that it contained an inaccurate reference (rolled heads “never” learn anything) to what Mr Dawson said last week. What he actually said was “it is difficult, so to speak, for a rolled head to learn anything”. Mr Dawson was happy to point out the inaccuracy: “I don’t think I said, ‘never learn'”.

He then went on, not so much to let the cat out of the bag, as to deliberately take it out and parade it around the studio.

… (Sanctions) may sometimes be the right direction to go and the necessary direction to go. On the other hand, the media commentator, Stephen Price…” (obviously a much more important person, with much more important opinions than those of, for example, mere ‘turbulent priests’) “… has pointed out that there is a serious risk, here, that investigative current affairs, which is carried on very extensively in RTE and with a very excellent track record…”  (once it has absolutely nothing to do with the Church) “… also, could be damaged, depending on how the out-turn of this whole process stands, and there has been a wish to balance the learning that is necessary in this with a minimum of damage to the future output of RTE,  and part of the point that was being made last week was that if you move towards the first, more severe sanction, very quickly, you lose the opportunity of having experienced and talented people take on board the lessons of this affair within the process of RTÉ’s investigative current affairs.”

In other words, the Institution and the Institution’s mission is ultimately more important than any people it might abuse along the way.  Sound familiar? Well not, apparently, to Mr Dawson or, for that matter, and for the second week running, to Ms Wilson. They still don’t get it!

To illustrate the point, why not try doing a little thought experiment: replace ‘RTE’ with ‘Church’, in the above passage, and ‘investigative current affairs’ with ‘charitable works’, and play back that interview, in your head, but with a real bishop speaking this time, instead of the RTE representative.

It is hard to imagine Mary Wilson or, indeed, any other RTÉ presenter not jumping all over that comment.

Instead, yesterday evening, at about 18:45, with the cat all but dancing in her hair, the Presenter promptly ended the interview and passed the ball to a “patiently waiting” Robbie Irwin.



Posted: November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

'Under the microscope': RTE and its treatment of the Church


A FRIGHTENING DOUBLE STANDARD in RTE’s attitudes to child abuse and the Catholic Church has emerged in the last 24 hours.

Following the settlement, at the High Court, yesterday afternoon, of the Fr Kevin Reynolds defamation case, Kevin Dawson, Head of Corporate Communications at RTE, decided to go on the Station’s Drivetime programme to be interviewed by Mary Wilson, at 5:40pm.

When asked, would heads now roll, over the Fr Reynolds case, Mr Dawson said, “It’s very difficult for a rolled head, so to speak, to learn anything”.

This response is in stark contrast to the attitude adopted by RTE towards the priests and bishops which the Station helped to hound out of office.

The irony of RTE’s position, however, appears to have been lost, not only on Mr Dawson, but also on the Drivetime Presenter, who decided not to follow up with a related question.

Later, that night, as part of the terms of the Settlement, an apology was read out on air on RTE 1, immediately prior to the screening of Prime Time (it was last May’s Prime Time programme, ‘Mission to Prey’ which gave rise to yesterday’s defamation case in the High Court).

Although the wording of the apology was comprehensive, it was read out quickly and in a monotone way, as pointed out by Fr Sean McMcDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests and Fr Eamon Aylward of the Irish Missionary Union, on Friday’s Today with Pat Kenny.

Fr McDonagh also pointed out that had it been a bishop who had been required, by a court, to read out an apology, and had the bishop got someone to read the apology in a similar monotone way to the way last night’s Prime Time Apology was read, that bishop would have been subject to severe media criticism.

These incidents, in the last 24 hours alone, have revealed a worrying double standard in the way RTE holds people and organizations to account for their actions. It cannot be a matter of one rule for priests and bishops and another rule for RTE journalists and producers. More generally, it cannot be a matter of one rule for the Church and another for RTE!

The challenges now facing RTE are formidable and while it is clear the Station would wish to be able, quickly, to put the affair behind it, in reality, it will have some work to do if it is to tackle the growing impression among ordinary Catholics that when it comes to fair play for the Church, the Institution that is RTE ‘still doesn’t get it’!

The Family and Media Association is encouraging its members and other people of good will to protest this obvious double standard on the part of RTE by contacting the Station and other authorities.

See also RTE’s ‘Mission to Prey’ (on an innocent Catholic priest!)

It is hardly surprising if a majority of the messages sent to the Department of the Taoiseach in the two weeks following Enda Kenny’s Cloyne speech, expressed support for the Taoiseach, as reported in this morning’s Irish Examiner.

However, this finding does not vindicate the Government’s position.

Instead of vindicating the Taoiseach, the finding should rather be seen as an indictment:…of the Taoiseach and his Government, for misleading the people; and of ‘the media’, for failing to alert the public to the significant errors in the Taoiseach’s speech.

The people, as a whole were rightly angry about the mismanagement of child abuse cases by the Church and some were relieved when the Taoiseach appeared to give vent to this anger, even if his actions seemed to be an attempt to deflect anger from the Government over its decision to break an election promise and close the Accident and Emergency unit of Roscommon Hospital.

But the people could not have suspected that the Taoiseach would have made so many inaccurate claims about so grave a matter when addressing the Dáil.  If you lie to the people and then say the people believed you, that does not make the lie true!

You see, the facts quite simply did not support the Taoiseach, and when asked to substantiate, for instance, his very specific claim that “for the first time in Ireland, a report in child sexual abuse exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago”, Enda Kenny, through his spokesperson, was quite unable to do so in any remotely satisfactory way.

Nor did the Taoiseach make an attempt to address the charge that he had quoted the Pope completely out of context or that the Taoiseach was, in effect, criticising the Holy See for not having expressed full support, some 14 years ago (the issue of Archbishop Storeo’s  1997 letter) , for a measure which the then Fine Gael/Labour coalition government, of which he was a member, did not itself support!

The media has, by and large failed to give adequate airing to these charges against the Taoiseach and, in so far as it has done so, it has not presented them as solidly grounded in fact, which they are, but simply as part of a feeble defense which should not be seriously entertained. By contrast, the Taoiseach’s allegations were, by and large, unquestioningly presented as facts. Facts presented as fakes and fakes presented as facts. The irony should not be lost on Seán Gallagher!

Didn’t we hear somewhere that journalism  is  supposed to be about the facts, a point made again recently in defence of Eamon Dunphy’s alleged failure as a journalist for not making people ‘feel good about themselves’?

But if ‘news is news’, and the facts matter, why is the Examiner not taking the opportunity, in this  morning’s  article, to point out the fact that Enda Kenny got his facts wrong?

Instead, by reporting  on approval for the Taoiseach’s Cloyne speech without  addressing the fake elephants in the room of  false allegations  and misleading  the Dail, the Examiner  is only covering up the truth and covering  for the  Taoiseach, a  sad parody of what good  journalism  should be.

Rather than seeking to defend the indefensible, The Examiner and the Irish  media, in  general, would be better served by finding out who really wrote that speech, for example, as it displayed, in equal measure, an ignorance and a knowledge well beyond the Taoiseach, as well as an agenda which had less to do with addressing the management of child abuse by the Church (much less that of child abuse, in general) than it had to do with stitching up the Pope. We need to ask, then, whose hands are rocking the cradle of the ‘new republic’?

The people were and continue to be largely, misinformed  by the Government. And this is happening under the nose of a sleeping media which only seems to wake up these days in order to bark at the Church or some other politically approved target.

One must also consider if the relatively low proportion of critical messages from  is not also a reflection of the degree to which people feel alienated from the Government and the media.

This is a most serious issue for our democracy. If the Government can get away with telling lies about the Earthly leader of the  Faith adhered to by the majority of its citizens, then is it surprising if some people were tempted to ask, what’s the pont in complaining?

“If you lie to the people and then say the people believed you, that does not make the lie true!”