You know that feeling you get when you hear via Twitter that something odd has happened on RTÉ and you almost wish that you had been watching Ryan Tubridy on a Friday night or that other fella O’Connor ona Saturday night.
So am I understanding this right? The O’Connor Fella (the one who isnt Turbridy) was interviewing Labour politician, Aodhan O’Riordan when he noticed the politician was wearing a “YES” pin and had to ask him to remove it. The O’Connor Fella said “NO” to comply with RTÉ guidelines on Impartiality …there is a Referendum on Equal Marriage later this month.
Now I am not trivialising the issue. Clearly a broadcaster, funded from the Public Purse, cannot be seen to be partial and while “YES” campaigners are right to point up the silliness that asking Ó Riordan to remove the pin, actually drew attention to it.
In many ways, the Marriage Equality Debate is a fault line between Modernity and Tradition. Many older people, many of Christian faith see RTÉ and the wider “Dublin 4 Elite” as pushing a liberal agenda. But the protests from liberals at RTÉ cowardice are mis-placed…the same liberals would be the first to notice a “NO” pin in an O’Connor Fella programme.
If the video goes viral…it should not be used as a stick to beat RTÉ. It should not be used to make the tired cliché “Ireland is a laughing stock for the whole world to see”. The Impartiality of a national broadcaster is to be treasured by liberal and conservative alike.
But yes….there is a stream of Comedy to be mined. I occasionally wear a “pioneer” pin…which (for my non-Irish, non-Catholic friends is a public statement that I do not drink alcohol) What happens if I am ever interviewed on The O’Connor Fella Show?
Does the O’Connor Fella tell me to remove it before telling his viewers to “Get Drunk!” ….to preserve Impartiality?
But if Norn Iron LetsGetAlongerists are tempted to scoff …again…at Ireland, they might do well to consider the BBC in Norn Iron. Of course Sinn Féin politicians tend to wear an “Easter Lily” pin on TV. Sould Noel Thompson ask Gerry Adams to remove it before he says “God Save The Queen” for balance. Unionist politicians engage in the month-long Poppy Season Nonsense (October-November). Should Stephen Nolan ask them to remove it and say “Up The Republic” to his viewers…for balance.
Oh yes, I do see the difference. The Referendum is a “live” political issue to be decided in two weeks time. RTE is publicly funded. Impartiality is vital.
But if RTÉ compelled its presenters to wear a “YES” pin, it would be an outrage against Impartiality. If a Supermarket owner in a small town in County Roscommon compelled his employees to wear a “NO” pin, it would be an outrage against the rights of Workers.
Which brings me to the BBC Norn Iron again. A Publicly-financed broadcaster AND an Employer. Why does it compel its staff to wear a Poppy for one month every year.