RTÉ to balance Adams No speech with Yes airtime

Wed, Apr 4, 2012, 01:00

RTÉ PLANS to give airtime to the Yes side in the upcoming referendum equivalent to the amount of time Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams devotes to advocating a No vote in his ardfheis speech.

Mr Adams is due to address his party’s national conference in Killarney, Co Kerry, on May 26th, five days before voting on the fiscal stability treaty takes place on May 31st. RTÉ broadcasts live coverage of parts of ardfheiseanna, including leaders’ speeches.

During referendum campaigns, broadcasters become subject to strict guidelines to ensure balanced coverage of both sides of the debate.

RTÉ and Sinn Féin have been in negotiations about coverage of the address at the Killarney event, given its expected content and proximity to the referendum.

An RTÉ source said the broadcaster was working on the assumption that Mr Adams would spend time speaking in favour of a No vote during the live coverage of his speech. In that event, the same amount of time would be offered to the Yes side.

“If Gerry Adams spends five minutes arguing for a No vote . . . we will be giving equal time for the sake of balance to the Yes side the following day,” the source confirmed.

The same arrangement does not apply to other parties because, RTÉ contends, their conferences took or will take place so far in advance as to have no impact on voting.

Sinn Féin chose the dates for its ardfheis, May 25th and 26th, before polling day for the referendum was announced.

A Sinn Féin spokeswoman said RTÉ had not yet got back to the party about the matter in an official capacity.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, in his keynote address to the Fine Gael Ardfheis last weekend, said passing the treaty would be “an essential first step” in the State’s recovery.