Banning of Veritas radio advert ridiculous, says theologian


ONE OF Ireland's leading Catholic theologians, Fr Enda McDonagh, has described as "ridiculous" and "plain silly" a decision by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to ban a Christmas radio advertisement by Veritas, which is owned by the Catholic bishops.

The retired professor of moral theology at St Patrick's College Maynooth said last night: "It sounds a bit crazy. There's a little touch of anything to do with religion being no longer acceptable. This so-called pluralist Ireland might be pluralist for everybody except somebody who's speaking reason about Christmas."

He said "it's not only disappointing, it's plain silly".

Fr McDonagh was speaking at the launch in Dublin of his book Remembering to Forgive: A Tribute to Una O'Higgins O'Malley, published by Veritas.

There was a generally angry reaction yesterday to the BCI decision which followed three unsuccessful attempts by an advertising agency acting for Veritas to meet BCI wording requirements. The final draft read:

"Cake and crackers, Santa and stockings, turkey and tinsel, Mistletoe and mince pies, and presents and puddings.

Christmas: aren't we forgetting something? This Christmas, why not give a gift that means more?

Veritas has a range of different and thoughtful gifts, for children and adults alike. From books and music to candles and artwork, there is something for everyone to enjoy and treasure.

So to give a gift that means more, drop into your local Veritas shop or log on to"

The BCI deemed the lines "Christmas: aren't we forgetting something?"; "Why not give a gift that means more?"; and "So to give a gift that means more" ''offend the legislation". It also found that asking people to visit the website was "unacceptable".

On its own website, the BCI said it was its view "that the scripts as proposed may not comply with legislation and regulation regarding advertising directed towards a religious end".

Before Christmas last year, at BCI instigation, Veritas had to remove the word "crib" from an advertisement before it could be broadcast.

Veritas has seven shops in the Republic and one in Derry. An opinion by its legal firm, Mason Hayes Curran Solicitors, said "the absurdity" of the latest BCI decision could be demonstrated by replacing the word "Veritas" as it appears in the advertisement with the words "Eason" or "Avoca".

In a statement Veritas said it was "bitterly disappointed" while Veritas director Maura Hyland noted the "myriad of adverts being broadcast for alcohol, for example - which are not creating difficulties for the BCI".