RTÉ apologises for news item on Cowen nude portraits


Art stunt: prankster hangs portraits in galleries:RTÉ LAST night apologised for a television news report concerning nude portraits of Taoiseach Brian Cowen which appeared in two Dublin galleries.

The broadcaster received a number of complaints about the item on Monday’s 9pm television news, including one from the Taoiseach’s office. RTÉ had deemed the report to be inappropriate before complaints were received, a spokeswoman said last night. Consequently the report did not run on subsequent bulletins and was taken down from the RTÉ website, she said.

“On last night’s programme we carried a report on the illicit hanging of caricatures of the Taoiseach in two Dublin galleries. RTÉ News would like to apologise for any personal offence caused to Mr Cowen or his family and for any disrespect shown to the office of the Taoiseach by our broadcast,” the statement read by newscaster Eileen Dunne on last night’s 9pm television news said.

The anonymous paintings of Mr Cowen, holding his underpants in one and a toilet roll in the other, appeared respectively in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) gallery and the National Gallery of Ireland almost three weeks ago.

Fianna Fáil TD Michael Kennedy last night called on RTÉ director general Cathal Goan to consider his position. The report “represented a gross insult to the position of An Taoiseach, not to mention a personal affront to the dignity of the man himself”, Mr Kennedy said in a statement.

The item “was obviously seen as a piece of entertainment – biased and partisan entertainment”, and raised “serious questions about the agenda at play in the RTÉ newsroom”, he added.

Meanwhile, speculation over the identity of the artist behind the portraits continued yesterday.

Illustrator Chris Judge said members of the Illustrators’ Guild of Ireland had been in e-mail contact with each other to ascertain who painted the portraits placed in the National Gallery and RHA gallery, but had yet to find out the artist’s identity.

“We’ve seen Banksy pull similar stunts but I love the humour behind these paintings . . . on an artistic level I think they’re brilliantly executed,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the National Gallery said “front-of- house staff removed the painting immediately after it was noticed in the portrait gallery”.