let down  | 

TDs to grill RTÉ chiefs as Dublin Pride ends media partnership over Liveline ‘anti-trans’ discussions

One senator said the broadcaster had let the trans community down

Joe Duffy

Gabija Gataveckaite and Seoirse Mulgrew

RTÉ is set to be hauled before the Oireachtas Media and Culture Committee after Dublin Pride severed its ties with the State broadcaster over what the campaign group described as “anti-trans” discussions on Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme.

TDs and Senators on the Dáil committee this morning agreed to invite RTÉ bosses to appear before it in the coming weeks to discuss its coverage of transgender issues.

It comes after days of debate on RTÉ Radio One’s Liveline.

Dublin Pride announced on Tuesday that would drop its media partnership with the State broadcaster over the matter.

It is understood that there was “broad support” among politicians in a private meeting of the committee today to invite RTÉ bosses to appear before the committee.

Labour senator Annie Hoey said the State broadcaster had let the trans community down.

“RTÉ should have an opportunity to listen to the trans community. They have let the community down,” she said.

“I think RTÉ should be brought in before the committee because I want to hear what they want to say.”

It is understood that RTÉ will be asked to come before the committee on June 22.

Senator Malcolm Byrne said it is "important" that Dublin Pride and RTÉ "engage and talk to each other".

"The way to achieve change is through understanding and dialogue," he said.

Earlier, RTÉ said it was “disappointed” with the decision by Dublin Pride to end its partnership with the national broadcaster over what the campaign group said were “harmful anti-trans discussions” on Joe Duffy’s Liveline.

Callers have been discussing transgender issues over the past several days on the programme.

The broadcaster said public discussion, which it described as sometimes “uncomfortable and difficult”, is “central to RTÉ’s prescribed purpose”.

It said it will, consistent with its statutory obligations, respond to any formal complaints concerning the broadcasts.

“RTÉ is disappointed with the decision to end a partnership we had developed together with a range of bodies over the last three years,” a spokesperson said.

“Standing with the LGBTQ+ community, during Pride month sends an important signal that RTÉ is here to serve everyone, and over the last three years RTÉ has sought to include these communities and extend understanding through a range of specially produced content, campaigns and partnerships.”

“Public discussion - sometimes uncomfortable, difficult, and contentious - is central to RTÉ’s prescribed purpose. RTÉ is acutely aware that discussions on issues such as gender and identity are deeply personal to many.

“It is important we listen to them, their families and those close to them, and it is also important that we allow our audiences engage with and understand the issues involved.

“RTÉ will continue to stand with our LGBTQ+ staff and the wider community during Pride month and beyond. In time, we hope that we will once again get the opportunity to continue to develop our partnership with Dublin Pride.”

Dublin Pride terminated its media partnership with RTÉ “with immediate effect” on Tuesday due to what it termed “unacceptable, triggering and extremely harmful anti-trans discussions” on Joe Duffy’s Liveline.

The LGBTQ+ movement said that it was “angered and disappointed” with the recent discussions around trans people on the RTÉ Radio One show and said, “as Ireland’s national broadcaster, we expect better than for RTÉ to stoke the flames of anti-trans rhetoric”.

“Over the past three years, we have worked together with the national broadcaster to increase positive representation of LGBTQ+ on TV, radio and online, and to see the good work of so many people undone is saddening in the extreme and negates much of the efforts made to date.

“It breaches trust with our community and causes untold hurt,” a statement from Dublin Pride said on Tuesday evening.

Dublin Pride also said it expects a statement from RTÉ around how it “will make amends for this situation and are committed to continuing the fight for equality, fairness and respect for all members of the LGBTQ+ family”.

This is the second time Dublin Pride has terminated its partnership with RTÉ. It last terminated the partnership in 2014 due to the ‘Pantigate’ incident when the broadcaster paid damages to six people following comments made by Rory O'Neill, also known as drag performer Panti Bliss, during the course of an interview on The Saturday Night Show.

The partnership was rekindled in 2019 as Dublin Pride with the organisation saying: “In all our meetings with RTÉ, we were very clear, we had not forgotten and we demanded better from our national broadcaster.”

It said this was “an opportunity for RTÉ to fulfil a responsibility they have to our community”.

"They approached us, looking to build a partnership. We get no money from this partnership when we were asked what we wanted in return, we were very clear ‘tell the story of real people in our community’.”

The Dublin Pride parade is due to take place on Saturday June 25, and the Dublin Pride website has already removed the RTÉ logo from its official partners section.

Rory O'Neill, also known as drag performer Panti Bliss, hit out at Liveline on Tuesday for recent discussions around the transgender community, which he described as “just plain nasty”.

He wrote on Twitter: “I was prepared to accept that the first day of the #Liveline hate-fest was the result of a combination of ignorance and a woefully misguided “let’s all have a reasonable debate” attitude, but four days in it’s hard to argue it’s not wilful, clear-eyed, and just plain nasty.”

Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty said she “fully” supported the decision by the LGBTQ+ group.

“Fully support this decision but it is such a truly great pity that it ever came to this. Respect and dignity in all our utterances,” she said.

Dublin Lesbian Line shared a statement online, saying: “Trans & non-binary people are absolutely central to the LGBTQIA+ community & Dublin Lesbian Line is a strongly trans inclusive organisation. We vehemently denounce @rte's facilitation of a transphobic live debate which puts the safety & lives of trans people in danger #PrideMonth.”

Psychotherapist and author Stella O’Malley wrote on Twitter that “open dialogue is the lynchpin of civilised society.”

“It is essential that @rte don't bow to the pressure from @DublinPride. Open dialogue is the lynchpin of civilised society. If @rteliveline isn't free to discuss whatever issues that are raised by the public, then we are living in a totalitarian state,” she said.

“Whether the people who discuss the issues are right or wrong is completely irrelevant. To be able to think freely, we need to be able to speak freely, these two activities go hand in hand; you can't have one without the other.”

Independent senator Sharon Keogan said the Liveline programme is a “public sounding board for national issues”.

She said: “Women told their stories about cervical cancers/menopause/M&B homes/domestic violence & other women's issue. When the govt try 2 erase the word 'women' from legislation, women who speak out are labelled. #FreeSpeech.”

On his radio show this morning, Ryan Tubridy said he hopes that Dublin Pride might reconsider its decision to end its media partnership with RTÉ.

The host said Liveline is a programme that indulges in “robust debate” and he described Pride as a “wonderful” organisation.

“I don’t think I can think of an organisation more committed to what they do than RTÉ, that’s the truth,” he said.

“Down through the years, that would be my observation, few organisations [have been] left wanting in their support, broadly speaking for the LGBTQ+ community.

“And Liveline is a programme that indulges in robust debate, and I think the world needs robust debate and sometimes in the course of robust debate, you might not like what you hear, and you might find some opinions odious, and you might find some opinions correct.

“I would hope that Pride might reconsider because we respect what you do and what they do tremendously.”

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