RTÉ MD of Television defends Iona Institute apology and payout as 'most prudent course of action'

Thursday 06 February 2014 10.31
RTÉ MD of Television Glen Killane has defended RTÉ's payout and apology to the Iona Institute
RTÉ MD of Television Glen Killane has defended RTÉ's payout and apology to the Iona Institute

RTÉ MD of Television Glen Killane has defended RTÉ's payout and apology to journalist John Waters and members of the Iona Institute as "the most prudent course of action".

Last week it emerged RTÉ paid €85,000 after legal proceedings arising from an interview broadcast with LGBT activist Rory O'Neill on The Saturday Night Show were initiated.

Mr Killane confirmed the payments involved were €40,000 to Mr Waters and €45,000 to members of the Iona Institute.

He said RTÉ had been facing six separate legal actions.

In a letter to staff, Mr Killane defended the payout, saying legal advice was sought and all avenues were explored, including an offer to make a donation to a neutral charity.

He said RTÉ explored every option available to it, including right of reply.

He continued: "However, based on the facts of what was broadcast, and having regard for broadcasting compliance issues, the seriousness of the legal complaints, and the decision by the complainants not to accept RTÉ's proposed remedies, we decided that a settlement was the most prudent course of action.

"Senior counsel was consulted and confirmed that the legal position was far from clear."

Mr Killane said that as a dual-funded public body, RTÉ should not "knowingly progress to defend an action when it is advised, internally and externally, that such a defence is unlikely to succeed before a jury".

He said that the broadcaster had not engaged in censorship, but had fallen foul of Ireland's defamation laws.

He said: "RTÉ will continue to cover this and related issues, as evidenced by last week's Late Debate, coverage of the protest in Dublin city centre on Sunday, today's item on Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 and last weekend's debate on the subject on The Saturday Night Show."

Meanwhile, an address by Mr O'Neill, known also by stage-name Panti Bliss, at the Abbey Theatre on Saturday night has reached over 250,000 views on YouTube.

The oration has been tweeted by well-known Irish comedian Graham Norton, UK comedian and writer Stephen Fry and American drag queen Ru Paul, among others.

In it, Panti discusses the appropriation of the word "homophobia" and which groups and in what instances the word was allowed to be used.