RTE’s Cowen Apology: My Complaint & Their Response

Sir or Madam,

I wish to complain in the strongest possible terms about your craven apology to the Taoiseach for a report which was entirely accurate and newsworthy. While there are countries that have laws governing disrespect to the state and its offices, these are not countries in which any Irish person would like to live, and their laws are not mirrored here. Our constitution guarantees freedom of speech and includes in this freedom the right to criticise the government, a criticism which was the aim of the satirical paintings. That this apology came in response to political pressure is all the more shameful.


Fergal Crehan

The Reply:

Dear Mr. Crehan,

Thank you for your e-mail in regard to our story about the hoax paintings of the Taoiseach which was broadcast on Monday’s
9.00 pm News and our subsequent apology yesterday evening. RTÉ News made the decision independently that the item
as transmitted was both in bad taste and inappropriate and made our own decision that we would not broadcast it on the News
on Two later that night and that it would be taken down from the RTÉ website.

We also received complaints following the item from various sources, including one from the Government Press Secretary.
RTE News informed him that we had already made the decision that the item was inappropriate. We also decided ourselves
that the broadcast of the item deserved an apology.

I hope this helps to clarify the matter.

Your comments will be included in our Audience Log of calls and e-mails which is circulated for information
to senior RTÉ programme management and is reviewed by the Editorial Board at its weekly meeting.

Your e-mail will also be brought to the attention of the Managing Editor of TV News.

Kind regards.
Bernie Fitzpatrick – RTÉ Information Officer.

My Response:

Ms. Fitzpatrick,

Contrary to your piously expressed hope, the below letter does not even begin to clarify the matter complained of, and I shall be taking this matter to the BCC, as will, I suspect, many other license-payers and citizens. My letter was not in response, as your reply suggests, to the orignal news feature, but rather to your apology, broadcast the next day. I would be grateful to know by what measure RTE decided this accurate report of an incident of public interest was both in “bad taste and inappropriate” and look forward to reading the guidelines whereby RTE decide which facts are and are not sufficiently tasteful to be revealed to those it purports to serve.


Fergal Crehan


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