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11th Oct 2022

Taoiseach says RTÉ needs to explain decision not to broadcast Shane Ross interview

Stephen Porzio

The interview was about Ross’ new biography of Mary Lou McDonald.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called on RTÉ to explain its decision not to air an interview with former minister Shane Ross last week.

The interview was recorded for Today with Claire Byrne and was about Ross’ new biography of Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

In his Sunday Independent column, Ross stated that “RTÉ shocked everyone involved” by pulling the interview, adding that the broadcaster “did not offer legal grounds, but instead cited the utterly vague ‘editorial guidelines’.”

On Tuesday in the Dáil, Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe said he believed the broadcaster has “some very serious questions to answer” about its decision.

“I’m not sure what they’re afraid of or who they are afraid of and what they are hiding but this is censorship of the highest order,” he stated.

“It is a very worrying development… Shane Ross was able to give his interview to Newstalk, Today FM and to other independent radio stations but RTÉ I believe have questions to answer.”

Kehoe asked the Taoiseach if he shared these concerns about RTÉ’s decision.

“I don’t know the background to the entire case other than to say that such a development has a chilling effect on public debate and on democracy, of that there is no doubt,” Martin responded.

“Obviously, the national broadcaster is taking a cautious position here, and because of a fear of being sued will not publish the interview or will not broadcast the interview.

“That’s something that demands greater transparency and explanation.”

Martin also told the Dáil: “Apparently a political party got access to the interview to listen to it.

“I don’t think I was ever afforded that opportunity as a leader of the opposition ever.

“Why RTÉ decided not to publish it is a matter that needs explanation.”

In a statement to JOE on Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said:

“Broadcasters have editorial independence to decide what they cover and broadcast. That is a principle the BAI acknowledge.

“With many competing stories and items each day, it is not unusual for a pre-recorded interview not to be broadcast.

“In this instance, the decision not to broadcast was an editorial decision and was not influenced by any legal issues.

“RTÉ can also confirm that no one was given access to the recorded interview.”

Meanwhile, a Sinn Féin spokesperson told JOE: “It is a matter for RTÉ what they choose to broadcast, or not.

“It is highly unusual for the Fianna Fáil leader to use Dáil time in this way; particularly when his information is completely incorrect.

“Sinn Féin did not receive a copy of any interview, nor was it sought.”