Fears of `over-dramatic' TDs

 

Jack Lynch: turned down request to televise Dail opening

Television cameras in the Dail in 1969 could have caused "over-dramatic" performances by some deputies and afforded "enormous opportunity for jealousy" among party leaders, according to an official in the Department of the Taoiseach that year.

The State papers include correspondence within the Department of the Taoiseach, and between RTE and the Government, regarding the national broadcaster's request to provide live television coverage of the first meeting of the 19th Dail, on July 2nd, 1969.

The then director-general of RTE, Mr T.P. Hardiman, wrote to Mr P. O hAnnrachain, deputy assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach, saying that "viewing the process of the election of the Taoiseach and the next government . . . as it happens . . . would be the most effective use of television possible".

He stressed that the question of regular live television coverage was not involved. RTE understood that the normal procedure would be for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to be consulted. However, he hoped that as it had lapsed since dissolution of the Dail, "it [RTE] would hope that it would meet the requirements at this stage to clear the proposal with the political parties through their leaders".

The Department of the Taoiseach, however, had a different view.

In a letter to the then Taoiseach, Mr Jack Lynch, dated July 2nd, 1969, his Department's assistant secretary, Mr D. O Suilleabhain, said two aspects occurred to him.

"The addition of TV coverage may heighten tension too much, especially for the many new TDs not accustomed to it, would tend to elicit over-dramatic and camera-attracting responses."

There was also the fear of jealousy. More cameras would ensure incidents happening away from the speaker being filmed. "If Independent TDs are of importance in the proceedings, TV coverage will, naturally, magnify their leading role - to the chagrin of party leaders and whips."

A week later, the request to televise the opening of the Dail was turned down, "the principal reason being the necessity to consult the Committee on Procedure and Privileges" which would not be appointed until after the incoming Dail had met.