You can’t say that?

There was a conversation on RTE the other day, a conversation which touched on homophobia; the video of the conversation was taken down from YouTube and then restored with parts removed.

RTE has removed content from the RTE Player featuring Rory O’Neill’s interview on The Saturday Night Show.

In an interview following a performance by O’Neill’s alter ego Panti, host Brendan O’Connor spoke to the performer about homophobia in Ireland. O’Neill spoke about how he believed Ireland had a bad rep but as a small country could change much faster.

Nothing too horrifying there. He goes on to say that everybody knows gay people, which makes it hard to “be mean” about the subject.

Because Ireland is such small communities grouped together, everybody knows their local gay!

Maybe twenty years ago it was ok to be really mean about him, but nowadays it’s just not ok to be really mean about it.

The only place that you see it’s ok to be really horrible and mean about gays is on the internet in the comments and people who make a living writing opinion pieces for newspapers.”

Rory O’Neill

When O’Connor asked who the writers were that O’Neill was talking about he named Breda O’Brien and John Waters, as well as the Iona Institute.

And the interview was later taken down. reports:

RTÉ confirmed its actions in a statement to

        Last weekend’s The Saturday Night Show was removed from the Player due to potential legal issues and for reasons of sensitivity following the death of Tom O’Gorman as would be standard practice in such situations.

The programme has since been returned to the online player but O’Neill’s interview has been cut short.

What potential legal issues?

Can anybody seriously think that anything he said was libelous? If so, things are more different on that side of the Atlantic than I had realized.




  1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Defamation laws in the UK are pretty awful. If anyone sees something in the UK, even if the action happened elsewhere, UK courts will take jurisdiction.

    They simply can’t help themselves. Moreover, the standards for proving defamation are substantially lower than in the US.

    I know even less about Ireland’s defamation law, but it would fairly certainly be seen in the UK if it was on YouTube, so, yeah, anyone who wants to say that there are potential legal issues *in the statements* can reasonably say so.

    That doesn’t mean that legal liability is the actual reason for taking it down. In fact, it’s uncertain to me (ask a UK lawyer) if the liability would attach to RTE or just to Panti/ONeill.

    So unprincipled cowardice is still a possible cause, but given UK defamation law liability isn’t completely off the table.

  2. quixote says

    I don’t know about that theory that being aware of “your local gay” makes it hard to be nasty to gays. Almost everybody has seen a woman or two in their lives, yet men — and even lots of women — don’t seem to have any difficulties in the nastiness department.

  3. says

    @Crip Dyke, not so much now, they should have fixed that with the 2013 Defamation Act?
    Need to show that this country is the right place to hear the complaint. So if published and primarily seen somewhere else then I’d imagine they would be hard pressed to argue that.

    Also the additions such as a requirement to prove serious damage and honest opinion being a defence must make our libel laws no where near as bad as they were? Although I do believe we have the requirement that the defendant must prove that the claim is true and them not being able to do that makes it libel. So making statements of fact is still a very dangerous thing to do without solid evidence.

  4. mudpuddles says

    There have been a number of cases here in Ireland where politicians and other high-profile people (high-profile here, not necessarily anywhere else) have successfully sued individual broadcasters and / or their programmes or hosting company (which has in the past included RTE) over allegedly libelous or defamatory statements or programme content. A number of those cases have been valid, but some have been nothing short of bullying tactics aimed at silencing dissent or criticism. Most have succeeded. In one famous case from 4 or 5 years ago, the then-Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) threatened legal action after an art gallery hung two paintings depicting a caricature of him in a state of undress (in kind of a “the emperor has no clothes” concept). The art was removed. What’s worse, he also threatened legal action against RTE which included a piece about the art in its news programmes. Bizarrely, RTE issued an on-air apology to him on the news the following day.

    As a result, there is an utterly ridiculous terror of libel, and way over the top efforts by RTE and other media (notably Today FM and the RTE radio outlets) to backpeddle and apologise profusely whenever any guest or interviewee says anything which might, at even the wildest stretch of the imagination, be considered to leave an opening for a lawsuit. It matters not whether any statement is backed up by rock solid evidence (such as is the case with the writings of John Waters, a disgusting bigot, and with the public statements and actions of the Iona Institute).

    So RTE censoring a recorded interview, which has already gone out live, is not a shock. Its just indicative of the broader problem of cowardice and complacency within the media here, and a symptom of the cosy relationship that journalists and media organisations like to foster with the powers that be.

  5. johnthedrunkard says

    Can we get a lightning bolt to descend every time someone uses a set of initials that mean NOTHING to 99+% of the world’s population?

    RTE? Evidently an Irish broadcasting entity.

  6. says

    @ 4 – wow. I didn’t know all that.

    @ 5 – well then you wouldn’t have B&W any more.

    Yes, RTE is an Irish broadcasting entity. I did think of spelling that out but I figured the context would make it obvious enough, and I hate having things spelled out that don’t really need spelling out. And “RTE” may mean nothing to 99+% of the world’s population but the readership of B&W is a tiny subset of the world’s population and much of it does know what RTE is, in some cases because I’ve cited it here before.

  7. Maureen Brian says

    Besides, if you take RTÉ and, as an act of kindness, spell it out in full it becomes Raidió Teilifís Éireann.

    Yes, it’s in Irish Gaelic so you’d then get complaints about writing in a language which 99% of the world’s population doesn’t speak.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    I haven’t read the whole bill: it was used as a comparison piece in a class of mine. As I understand it, you can no longer (generally) sue for damages that occur in another country. However, even if both publication and damage primarily occur elsewhere, one can come to britain to sue for the damage that did occur there (or because of broadcasting/publication there). With voting Irish living in the UK, you could certainly force a takedown using UK defamation law, but the monetary damages you would be able to recover would be limited to those who saw it in the UK or saw it because a UK entity rebroadcast it.

    This is assuming that I have correctly understood the lessons of my conflict-of-laws teacher, which is of course a dubious assumption. But conflict of laws is complicated at best. It’s very hard in statute in common law countries to forbid the courts from finding a way round hearing something that they want to hear when precedent exists for hearing something similar, even if the statute came after the precedent.

    Doesn’t mean the law never wins. (indeed, in common law systems statute is supposed to always trump precedent) It just means that lawyers are paid to find ambiguities and whenever the ambiguity is there the older precedent will probably take over.


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