Taoiseach says TG4 should consider postponing documentary on Creeslough tragedy

His comments came after a father who lost his teenage daughter in the Creeslough explosion said his wife and children are not ready to see a documentary which is due to air on TG4 this evening.

Leona Harper, 14, Robert Garwe, 50, Shauna Flanagan Garwe, five, Jessica Gallagher, 24, and James O'Flaherty, 48, and (bottom row, left to right) Martina Martin, 49, Hugh Kelly, 59, Catherine O'Donnell, 39, her 13-year-old son James Monaghan, and Martin McGill, 49, the ten victims of explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal on Friday. Picture date: Sunday October 9, 2022.© PA

Senan Molony, Paul Hyland and Seoirse

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged TG4 to sit down with the Creeslough families ahead of any decision to broadcast a proposed documentary on the tragedy – which is due to air tonight.

“What I'd ask TG4 to do is to perhaps sit down with the families concerned, maybe consult them, and having done that make a decision as to whether or not they're going to postpone the airing of the documentary,” Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.

“I'm reluctant as head of Government to tell any broadcaster what they should or should not broadcast. I don't want to get into that space,” he said, answering Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty.

“But I do hear what the families are saying, and I think we all feel their pain, and would ask at the very least that TG4 would sit down with their representatives and discuss the matter and hear their case and try to understand it.”

His comments came after a father who lost his teenage daughter in the Creeslough explosion said his wife and children are not ready to see a documentary which is due to air on TG4 this evening.

Ten people lost their lives following the explosion at the Applegreen petrol station in the Donegal village on October 7 last year.

The documentary, Iniúchadh TG4 - An Craoslach, will show how local people came together to help rescue those trapped before emergency services got to the area.

Creeslough scene

Hugh Harper’s 14-year-old daughter Leona died in tragedy and he has joined the chorus of bereaved relatives who are pleading with the Irish-language broadcaster to postpone the programme until a later date.

“It’s timing of this and the lack of communication from TG4. That’s our issue,” he said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Liveline, Mr Harper said he has written to TG4 asking for all the bereaved families to be contacted, as well the Garda Superintendent who is overseeing the Creeslough investigation, but he has not received a reply.

“We’re not looking for this not to be aired, we’re not looking for this to be put on the shelf and gather dust. If we had been contacted during the production of it and somebody said, ‘this is what it’s going to be, here’s some footage, take a look at it,’ maybe we wouldn’t be sitting here having this talk,” he said.

“It feels like we’re passengers on a bus, on the back seat, you’re out of sight out of mind, and people are just going to do what they want to do without your consent. We’re not looking to give consent, we’re just looking to be included, acknowledged.

“I don’t know what way to put it, it’s just too damn early. My kids are not ready see some of them images. My eldest boy and my wife were one of the first on the scene… What they have seen, and they won’t talk to me about it, they don’t want me to know,” he added.

Cillian Flanagan spoke to Liveline yesterday on behalf of his sister Áine who lost her partner Robert Garwe and their five-year-old daughter Shauna in the tragedy.

Mr Flanagan said Áine is “devastated” at the prospect of what she may view in the documentary which covers the “worst chapter” of her life.

“They’ve interviewed a number of people who were first on the scene who without a doubt are heroes and no one’s questioning that, these people are unbelievable,” he said.

A mourner displays the order of service at the funerals of Robert Garwe his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe in Donegal last year. Picture: Getty Images© Getty Images

“But what we have now is a situation tomorrow night where Áine and others are being asked to look at a one-hour documentary revisiting the worst chapter of their existence and seeing things for the first time, hearing things for the first time and it’s not acceptable.

“Last Tuesday, as soon as we learned of this, we sent emails into TG4 and since then we’ve sought information of what’s in it.

“Áine hasn’t slept a wink since last Tuesday, she’s devastated at the prospect of what she’s going to see here tomorrow night.

“There’s been no consultation whatsoever with the families, no advance notice.”

Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said the issue has left many people directly connected to the tragedy “deeply distraught” to learn suddenly of the proposed broadcast.

“They're pleading with them not to air this documentary. They believe it's too raw and the garda investigation is still not concluded.”

Mr Doherty said TG4 provided an excellent service on documentaries “and nobody is questioning that professionalism.”

It was expected that the families and the tragedy would be dealt with sensitively, and the story of those heroes who were the first responders did need to be told, he said.

“But the families are asking -- and indeed begging -- that this is postponed until the garda investigation is over.”

Mr Varadkar said: “I just want to once again extend my condolences to the people of Creeslough, who I know are still mourning and for whom this tragedy is still very, very raw.”

He then suggested that TG4 sit down with the families concerned and consult them – even though there are only hours left to the scheduled broadcast.

In a statement issued to, a spokesperson for TG4 said the documentary shows “the upmost respect for those who lost their lives”.

The spokesperson said the programme does not report anything about the victims other than what has “already been reported publicly in the direct aftermath of the tragedy”.

“The focus of the documentary Iniúchadh TG4 - An Craoslach is to shine a light on the people of the area who assisted in the rescue at the scene of the explosion,” the spokesperson said.

“It contains interviews with some of those who risked their own lives while bringing others to safety.

“They speak compassionately and sensitively about the roles they played helping others in the face of great adversity.

“The contributors wanted to express their gratitude at how an ordinary community came together at a time of great difficulty to try to assist their friends and neighbours.

“The production team who made the programme, Clean Slate TV, includes the highly respected former BBC journalist Kevin Magee.”

Iniúchadh TG4 - An Craoslach will air at 9.30pm tonight.

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