FIANNA FÁIL SENATOR Marc MacSharry has defended his criticism of online forums yesterday saying that his view that they amounted to “legalised subversion of the State” was taken out of context.
Speaking in the Seanad yesterday, the senator said: “When people are tweeting, texting or online, for example, on boards.ie and Politics.ie. In my view that does not amount to free speech, but legalised subversion of the State. It is fundamentally wrong.”
He was the subject of considerable criticism on both websites yesterday but he defended his comments today.
Mac Sharry insisted that he was speaking in the context of the misuse of a tweet during the RTÉ Frontline presidential debate, an incident which he said “had the potential to subvert the State”.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie today Mac Sharry denied that he was attacking Boards.ie or Politics.ie saying that: “There will be people who choose to interpret this as a personal attack on fora. It certainly isn’t that. It’s the fact that we need to look at all of these areas. I am pro-free speech.
“What I meant and the whole train of the debate was on standards in the media relative to the misuse of kinds of social media and online media as a reputable source that is unverified. In that context, the misuse of them by traditional media can be subversive.”
He said the criticism of him on Politics.ie, which he noted ran to some 50 pages and had, he said, been described to him by some as “frenzied engagement” was “focusing on a context that wasn’t there”.
Mac Sharry echoed his party’s call for a public inquiry into RTÉ’s use of the ‘bogus tweet’ and the overall editorial processes behind the controversial final presidential debate last October.
“Everybody who was involved in it [the Frontline debate] all feel this is something that shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
“It is something that had a bearing on the outcome. I’m not saying it would have changed the outcome but it changed the actual result in terms of votes. It was the Frontline that did that”.
“We need to understand how it happened and why it happened. There needs to be an independent inquiry but far be it from me to dictate how that should happen.”
The Taoiseach said yesterday that the government would not be ordering a review of the Frontline programme while the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, which has already adjudicated on the ‘bogus tweet’, said there was no reason to review that decision.
The BAI last week upheld former presidential candidate Seán Gallagher’s complaint over the programme, ruling that the “broadcast of a tweet incorrectly attributed to the official Martin McGuinness for President Twitter account was unfair to the complainant.”