Sunday, 04 Dec 2022

Sinn Fin having chilling effect on Irelands democracy, says taoiseach

Sinn Fin having chilling effect on Irelands democracy, says taoiseach


Sinn Fin having chilling effect on Irelands democracy, says taoiseach

Sinn Féin has been accused of having a "chilling" effect on Ireland's democracy after RTÉ pulled an interview with the author of a new biography about the party's leader, Mary Lou McDonald.

The taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said the national broadcaster did not air the interview for fear of being sued. "Such a development has a chilling effect on public debate and democracy," he told the Dáil on Tuesday. "That's something that demands greater transparency and explanation."

RTÉ recorded a radio interview with Shane Ross, the author of Mary Lou McDonald: A Republican Riddle, on 29 September for a flagship show, Today with Claire Byrne, but never aired it.

McDonald is suing RTÉ for defamation on a different radio programme earlier this year. Other party colleagues have also taken out defamation cases.

Ross's biography, which was published last week, charts McDonald's rise from middle class Dublin roots up the hierarchy of Sinn Féin, a former IRA mouthpiece which now appears poised to lead Ireland's next government.

Before the interview RTÉ told Ross to not mention certain parts of the book, the author said on Wednesday. The broadcaster also stipulated the interview would be legally vetted and that Sinn Féin would be given a right of reply before broadcast, said Ross. "They were like cats on hot bricks."

Ross, a former politician and government minister, said he agreed to the conditions, making for a "sanitised" interview. "It was a bit like dancing on pins to not mention anything too sensitive." A week later the broadcaster canned the interview, telling Ross it did not meet editorial guidelines. "You can only conclude they are very nervous because there is a high court action against them."

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