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17th Feb 2024

Sinn Féin motion calling for immediate scrapping of TV licence defeated in Dáil

Stephen Porzio

tv licence

The party had been seeking a legal amnesty from prosecution for those who have not paid the fee.

A Sinn Féin motion which called for the TV licence to be scrapped immediately was defeated in the Dáil this week.

The party had proposed that the requirement to pay a TV licence fee be done away with, so that direct exchequer investment could instead be used to fund public service media in Ireland.

As part of the motion, a legal amnesty from prosecution for those who have not paid the fee would also have been introduced.

On Wednesday night, however, the Government put forward a countermotion, which ended up being passed by 78 votes to 56.

Sinn Féin motion calling for immediate scrapping of TV licence defeated in Dáil

Speaking before the vote in the Dáil, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:

“People’s trust and support for RTÉ and the licence have crumbled. People see the fiasco of excess and waste at RTÉ and they feel taken for fools. They see the lack of accountability too and frankly they’ve had enough.

“No wonder hundreds of thousands of households haven’t paid the licence. People are voting with their feet.

“Taoiseach, do you seriously propose to chase those hundreds of thousands of taxpayers through the courts, to threaten them with a fine or even a custodial sentence or will you act now?

“Surely, we can all agree that the court’s time and resources are better spent on more serious matters.”

Further describing the TV licence fee as “outdated” and as belonging to a “different time”, McDonald added: “We need a bit of common sense, a bit of cop on here.

“The television licence should be scrapped and direct exchequer investment should be put in place to fund public service media.

“Our proposal to be voted on tonight represents the best approach in delivering a sustainable and successful future for public service media. It’s also the fair approach for households and for families.”

In response, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is “very clear” that there are significant problems in RTÉ, including “a culture of poor governance” and “a culture of arrogance from some of the senior people who were in charge” of the organisation.

However, he disagreed that there has been “no accountability”, highlighting that a number of people have resigned from their posts at RTÉ and that people have been called in before the Oireachtas committee.

The Taoiseach added that the Government would decide on a new means of funding public service broadcasting.

He said this method would have to be fair and see people who use and benefit from this type broadcasting bearing “some of the cost”.

Varadkar also stated that it would have to outline very clearly that “it isn’t all about RTÉ,” adding: “It’s also about other forms of public service broadcasting including that provided by local radio, local media, reporting on council meetings, court reports, for example.”

The Taoiseach then told McDonald that paying the TV licence remains the law and that he believes “people should obey the law” and “should pay their taxes and pay their charges”.

“I think it would be an affront and an insult to the majority of decent law abiding citizens who have paid their TV licence fee to now grant amnesty to those who didn’t,” he said.

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