asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs whether any directions were given to employees in semi-State companies under his Department advising them of the limits of permissible political participation or setting out how the membership of political Parties affected their conditions of employment; whether any such directions had his prior consent; and whether he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Political Participation by Semi-State Employees.
I understand that a notice of the kind mentioned by the Deputy was issued last week by Radio Telefís Éireann, the only semi-State body for which I have a responsibility. This notice did not mention membership of political Parties but it prescribed the conditions under which staff employed by RTE could engage in political activity and stand for local, Dáil and Seanad elections.
My sanction for the issue of this notice was not necessary, and I was not consulted regarding it. I understand that the Authority considered the notice desirable in order to ensure that the impartiality imposed on it by section 18 of the Broadcasting Authority Act, 1960, should be maintained.
Would the Minister assure the House that there is no connection between his recent Estimate statement expressing his dissatisfaction with the tenor of public affairs programmes on Telefís Éireann and this latest action in Telefís Éireann? Can he assure the House that there is no connection between the present dissatisfaction of the Cabinet with the tenor of the programme and this action?
I do not follow the Deputy. Anything I said in my reply related to the conditions under which the permanent staff of RTE would take part in elections and this is a formalisation of the procedure adopted in individual cases. I understand it is part of a code book of regulations for the staff, which is gradually being formulated, and it can be regarded as comparable with similar practice in the BBC. There is nothing extraordinary or abnormal about it. It does not relate in any way to anything I said in Dáil Éireann with regard to anything I might regard as ideal policy for RTE. There is absolutely no connection.