Patrick Magee Interview


Sir, - Muiris Mac Conghail's article (Opinion, September 6th) condemning RTE for interviewing Patrick Magee was like a blast of stale air from an unlamented past. All of the old broadcasting censorship confusion is reflected in the piece. Mr Mac Conghail mixes up his personal political revulsion over the Brighton hotel bombing in 1984 with the right of RTE to interview the perpetrator and the right of the public (including Mr Mac Conghail) to hear what Mr Magee has to say. Having heard Mr Magee, Muiris Mac Conghail is free to criticise what he said in defence of his actions.

The McCarthyite veneer to Mac Conghail's piece, which questions whether or not Magee should have been put on air in the first place, is wholly inappropriate. In his position of media lecturer, he would serve the cause of media freedom better by engaging in the difficult and complex cause of defending that freedom. Instead, there is the implication that those who publish and question the views of contributors are a quasi public relations agency engaged in their promotion. I no more think that RTE promotes Patrick Magee's views than that The Irish Times as an institution promotes those of Muiris Mac Conghail. E for over 20 years. Mr Mac Conghail's dismissive quip that The Sunday Business Post broke the news of Mr Magee's views on the consequences of his actions is deeply ironic considering the fact that for years RTE never broke anything on the North, so cowed were the station's news managers by the effects of the Section 31 censorship order. This period included Mr Mac Conghail's tenure as Controller of Programmes. During the censorship era, those who stood up against the effects of censorship and its sibling, self-censorship, were the victims of whispering campaigns who saw their careers suffer. RTE eventually found itself arguing unsuccessfully in front of the Supreme Court in 1993 (in O'Tooole vs. RTE) that its extensions to state censorship in relation to Sinn Fein members were justified. This was after the High Court had found that RTE had gone far beyond the state's Section 31 censorship Order. When the Order was rescinded in 1994 by Michael D Higgins RTE management and some staff suffered a culture shock. Even today in the year 2000 a broadcaster from that time is trying to re-awaken the cause of ignorance

Those who work in the media, those who study it and those of us who merely read, see and hear it need the freedom to hear views we may or may not agree. Otherwise, how are we to be in a position to say what views we agree with if we are not allowed to hear them in the first place? - Yours, etc.,

Michael Finnegan, Bannow Road, Dublin 7.