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A still from an Irish Defence Forces video on peacekeeping
A still from an Irish Defence Forces video on peacekeeping
Image: Youtube/Irish Defence Forces

'Inappropriate for a family occasion': Complaints after Defence Forces video shown at All Ireland semi-final

The video was played during the hurling encounter between Clare and Galway in July.
Nov 1st 2018, 6:05 AM 41,344 73

THE DEFENCE FORCES were worried about commemorative videos for their work being “politicised” after being told they had to include a logo for the Irish Government.

The videos – shown during the All-Ireland hurling semi-final at Croke Park this summer – had proved controversial after some complained that they were too militaristic to be used at a family event.

Behind the scenes however, a separate controversy was also rumbling over the inclusion of government logos on the promotional videos.

Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show that the Defence Forces flagged concerns over the branding and whether it would be seen to be promoting the Fine Gael-led administration.

An email sent to the Defence Forces press officer Pat O’Connor from an official at the Department of Defence revealed how Minister Paul Kehoe had looked for their inclusion.

“I have discussed the issue of the use of the government of Ireland’s logo with the Minister’s office,” it said.

Other videos

The correspondence said that the branding should be displayed both immediately before and after a video on peacekeeping.

The message continued: “I know you have voiced your concerns with regard to its use and the potential for it to be politicising the event, however it is a public services logo.”

A day later, the Defence Forces press office was again contacted by the Department looking to ensure that the government branding was going to appear.

“The Minister’s office are looking for confirmation that the Government of Ireland logo will be shown as set out below along with the three other videos,” the email said.

The logo was originally introduced as part of the work of the Strategic Communications Unit.

That unit was wound down earlier this year amid controversy over the placement of advertorials in regional newspapers related to Project Ireland 2040.

Social media use

In a statement, the Department of Defence said use of the government of Ireland logo reflected the “cross-government and multi-services nature of Ireland’s participation in UN peacekeeping”.

They said: “In relation to the All-Ireland hurling semi-final, following internal discussions it was agreed by all parties that the logo be used in the same manner as the day of the State commemorations.”

The Defence Forces press office said the video content had been agreed between officials from four government departments and representatives from the Defence Forces, gardaí, and the Office of the President.

Separately, the Defence Forces only received two written queries about the videos despite the furore on social media about their use.

Council of State member Ruairí McKiernan asked why a military recruitment and an army rangers video would be shown during a hurling match.

He wrote: “I am fully supportive of the intended celebration of UN peacekeeping services but like many others, I am concerned by the particular nature of the videos as part of a family friendly sporting occasion.

“The Rangers video in particular, which was accompanied by a beating drum and loud gunshots, would appear not to fit with the theme of the event.”

Glamorising war

One mother-of-four wrote to say she thought one of the videos in particular was more suitable to an adult audience and after the 9pm TV watershed.

“One of the video clips was sensationalising warfare and was not appropriate viewing for a family occasion,” she said.

“The video was awash with scenes of soldiers shooting their guns and there was a continuous barrage of gunfire noise etc, high testosterone visuals that are more suited to a +18 video game.”

She said the video ended up being played three times during the course of the Clare and Galway semi-final, which went into extra time.

In a response to the two emails, the Defence Forces said the videos had been chosen to portray the work they did both domestically and on overseas deployment.

It said: “I am sorry that you did not enjoy the videos that show our work. However, many others have reached out to us to tell us how proud they were to see the professionalism of the Defence Forces portrayed in Croke Park yesterday.”

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Ken Foxe

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