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State Papers: RTÉ crew were 'somewhat cavalier' and acted 'on impulse' during US trip

The Irish Embassy had to rebook flights and arrange interviews for RTÉ when its crew visited in 1987.

File photo. St Patrick's Day parade in New York City.
File photo. St Patrick's Day parade in New York City.
Image: Shutterstock/anaglic

IN STATE PAPERS released this week, the Irish Embassy in Washington goes into detail about a visit from an RTÉ crew to record a number of news segments about the immigration issue for Irish people in the US.

Although the embassy considered the trip a success, it did also express concern about the RTÉ crew’s “tendency to act on impulse” and its “apparently somewhat cavalier [attitude] about keeping appointments”.

In its note to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the embassy noted the efforts it had to go to in order to make sure the RTÉ crew, led by Gerry Reynolds, had everything it needed and was able to get around on schedule.

The news segments were subsequently inserted into RTÉ news programmes.

The embassy said: “As far as their visit to Washington in concerned, the ambassador outlined the government’s concerns, priorities and activities on the immigration issue.”

It also arranged interviews with US politicians, including Ted Kennedy. It appears the embassy went to some efforts to persuade Kennedy to do the interview.

In relation to Senator Kennedy, as you know he has been reluctant in the past to give interviews to the Irish media and the interview he agreed to give to Reynolds was secured on the basis of considerable investment of time and energy by the embassy.

It was noted that the embassy arranged accreditation and access by the embassy and “also rebooked their connecting flights to New York when it turned out that their timetable was slipping that afternoon”.

As part of their interviews they came across a man named Hugh O’Brien, a Clontarf man who was assistant commissioner for the US border control.

“The RTÉ crew were taken by the fact that the native Dubliner was now effectively head of the border control,” the embassy said.

The Irish Embassy said that the trip appeared to be successful from Reynolds’ and RTÉ’s point of view, and it was also successful in giving the government’s case on the matter.

This was no easy task, the embassy said:

This entailed a considerable amount of management by the embassy, the more so since in New York, where the crew concentrated largely on meeting the out of status Irish, they had a tendency to act on impulse and were apparently somewhat cavalier about keeping appointments.

It raised concerns that, as it understood what was filmed to air in four to five-minute segments, “there is always the problem of a lack of balance in any one segment”.

“Arguably a single, say 30-minute piece, would be a better representation of the issue,” it said before acknowledging that what Reynolds had filmed should allow him to make a series which “ought to be informative and balanced over the five nights”.

Another concern raised was in one interview that Reynolds did where an immigration official gave an answer that was “ambiguous, and on the face of it, ran somewhat counter to what the INS have been saying to the embassy on this matter in recent months”.

The embassy added that it should really contact Reynolds and seek to “clarify the issue of statistics”.

Read: RTÉ reaches settlement with former presidential candidate Seán Gallagher over campaign tweet

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Sean Murray

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