Heckler defends Frontline outburst
The man who disrupted RTÉ's The Frontlineprogramme last night has said he has no regrets.
Alan O’Brien (38) from Inchicore berated host Pat Kenny live on television for more than three minutes and said the presenter had no right to host discussions on social welfare payments when he was earning more than €600,000 for 11 hours broadcasting a week.
Mr O’Brien said that he left the programme before two RTÉ security guards tried to eject him and he claimed they told him “fair play to you”.
It is not the first time that Mr O’Brien has disrupted a public event. He berated Ictu's David Begg during a trade union march in Dublin last Friday.
Speaking on Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy Showthis morning, Mr O’Brien denied his interjection on The Frontlinewas a stunt. He said it was ironic that he managed to harangue Mr Kenny as the presenter had warmed up the audience before broadcast by telling them to let their emotions out and not hold back.
“I’ve been, for a very long time, been in the streets speaking about excessive pay by people who are protected by the guarantee that the state funds them along with the people who pay for advertising and the licence fee,” he said.
“We have the likes of Pat Kenny. I feel €600,000 in the crisis period that we are in is way beyond anything that should be given to somebody who is working in a public broadcasting system.
“If I was making €500,000 for talking 11 hours a week giving my opinions, being sarcastic, being funny, being rude and doing things that certain individuals in RTÉ are doing, I would give 60 per cent of my wages every year to fund one child who is dying or sick in Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin.”
According to RTÉ’s latest figures, Kenny earned €950,976 in 2008 and €922,949 in 2007 and was RTÉ’s top paid presenter.
After the figures were published last month, Kenny issued a statement saying that he took a 25 per cent pay cut and then volunteered another 10 per cent this year, bringing his salary down to €630,000, the same as it was in 2002.
He was one of the few RTÉ presenters to speak publicly about their pay.
From a family of 13 children, Mr O’Brien said he has been disability benefit for many years because of psychiatric illness but has been out of hospital for four years, had been off medication for three and a half years, and was doing well. He had also been involved as a deacon and a junior pastor of a born-again church.
He said he had been homeless in 1995 and long periods in an out of psychiatric hospitals which he discussed on Joe Duffy’s Livelineprogramme in 2002. “Joe Duffy is even worse than Pat Kenny who only does an hour and a half every day. Damien (O’Reilly) who stands in for him is a much more rounded individual. He would be worth the money. Joe Duffy should actually go back into social work,” he told the programme.
While some people who contacted the Today FM programme criticised Mr O’Brien for being on benefits, others praised him for highlighting the issue of the pay at the national broadcaster.
“Fair play to that guy, he’s dead right. People have gone far too quiet when faced with this disgusting political and social elitism,” one listener said.
“Well done to that man," another listener said. "He’s completely right about the waste of public money spent on guys like Kenny with their trophy houses.”