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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 15 Jul 1975

Vol. 283 No. 9

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Television Interview.


asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if a request was made recently to the BBC asking that a televised interview with the Minister for Justice be not broadcast; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

In the course of an interview which the Minister for Justice gave to BBC Television for a programme on the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, it became apparent to the Minister that the approach of the interviewer was uniformed and unbalanced. The Government Information Services advised the Minister to withdraw his consent to the transmission of his interview and this was conveyed to the BBC by the Government Information Services.

Can the Minister say what exactly were the objections to the broadcast?

The Minister was concerned that the uniformed approach which appeared likely to be reflected in the programme might have a detrimental effect on public opinion, particularly in Northern Ireland. The association of the Minister with it in the form of a prerecorded interview might appear to condone that approach. Inherent in the programme's approach was the suggestion that the Irish authorities were not doing all in their power to minimise subversive activities within the State. Such a suggestion, if given currency on a BBC programme which, of course, can be seen in Northern Ireland, could only sustain further the many misunderstandings held by many people in Northern Ireland as to our attitude on violence and its perpetration. The Minister offered to appear live at the end of the programme and so to be in a position to offer informed and corrective comment on the line taken in the programme but the BBC declined.

They snubbed him.

Is not the Minister's reply a good example of what can occur if the State undertakes to broadcast a foreign programme in its entirety?

I do not think it is. This incident occurred in conditions in which no such rebroadcasting is happening. Secondly, there is only one thing really to be feared about this type of programme and that is its impact in Northern Ireland.

Or anywhere. The truth is the truth.

Most people living in the Republic know that this type of allegation is unfounded. Many people are interested to see that things are covered in this way, and it may be no bad thing that they do see it. I do not think any damage will be done to the national interest by the possibility of viewers in the south and west seeing something which is already viewable in the east and north. The fact is that the damage which we feared was the damage due to the broadcasting of this in Northern Ireland which we are not in a position to affect one way or another except, as was done in this case, to draw the attention of the BBC to the kind of damage that can be done in that area. On that we would propose to follow up.

Would the Minister not agree that current affairs programmes dealing with matters of this nature being transmitted into the State can cause a similar situation to develop?

No, the whole problem about this, as I tried to emphasise, is that the damage is done not by the reception of this kind of programme in this State where people know this is not true but by its reception and belief in it in Northern Ireland. That is the point that has to be made in this area.

Can the Minister envisage the situation where the greater damage could be done in the South?

As the Deputy knows, the BBC and other British channels are widely available in the Republic already. The gentleman who put down this question is not here. Deputy Molloy it was, who was arguing——

Very often it happens that Ministers are not here.

There are times when the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs is not here.

I am just expressing regret that he is not here because that Deputy urged that multi-channel television be provided for Galway city. If it were provided it would carry this kind of programme.

Is the Minister saying that an untruth about this country televised and broadcast in Britain is unimportant? Is he saying that it is only important when it is broadcast in Northern Ireland?

No, I am not. I accept the Deputy's point. It does damage in Britain and it does damage in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is the main one because opinion there is much more sensitive on this issue than it is elsewhere. Damage is also done in Britain and it is right that we should draw the attention of the people concerned to the damage that can be done by this kind of programme.

Next question.