Minister urged to reveal RTÉ’s Iona compensation

Sharp exchanges in the Seanad arising from ‘Saturday Night Show’ controversy

Performance artist Rory O’Neill, in his Panti Bliss guise, whose appearance on RTE’s Saturday Night Show provoked complaints. File Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Performance artist Rory O’Neill, in his Panti Bliss guise, whose appearance on RTE’s Saturday Night Show provoked complaints. File Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times

Thu, Jan 30, 2014, 17:57

There were sharp exchanges in the Seanad today when it was proposed Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte attend the House to discuss financial compensation reportedly paid to members of the Iona Institute arising from an RTÉ television programme.

Complaints were made following an interview with performer Rory O’Neill, also known as drag queen Panti Bliss - on the Saturday Night Show.

Fianna Fáil’s Averil Power said it was incumbent on the Minister to come into the House and advise members on how much was paid.

“Did RTÉ give serious consideration to arguing the defence of honest opinion in any threatened defamation action?’’ she asked.

When Fianna Fáil’s Jim Walsh said defamatory comments had been made, Labour’s Ivana Bacik said that was a matter of view, not an established view.

Mr Walsh said the programme was available online and could be accessed. “Senators Power, Bacik and others will be aware of the hate campaign on Twitter at present,’’ he added.

He said the institute had never been in any way homophobic. “What it stands for, a view which I and many people in this country share,” he said. “I also look forward to the debate in the lead up to the referendum... is that every child in this country is entitled to have a mother and a father involved in his or her rearing and development.”