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Leo Varadkar says he hopes RTÉ and Dublin Pride organisers can ‘sort out’ differences

The Tanaiste said “a lot of members of the trans community are very upset” about the Liveline radio discussions.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he believes “there is room for further discussion and engagement with the trans community” in Ireland. 

Speaking in Cork, the Taoiseach said he believed overall, RTÉ has been “very forward-looking” and “effective” in having a ”broader, more tolerant debate around these issues over the decades”.

He said the national broadcaster has been “progressive in relation to advancing greater tolerance and equality across the board”.

Dublin Pride

Dublin Pride announced  this week that it had terminated the media partnership over what it described as “unacceptable and extremely harmful” coverage on the programme.

It called on the national broadcaster to make a statement about how it will “make amends” following discussions about the community on Joe Duffy’s Liveline programme in recent days.

A spokesperson for RTÉ told The Journal that it received four formal complaints over the programme in question since it aired. 

It also received 48 emails, of which 21 were negative, and nine calls, of which seven were negative. 

The national broadcaster said in a statement yesterday that it was “disappointed” that Dublin Pride was severing the three-year relationship, and that it hoped “in time” it would rekindle the relationship.

“Standing with the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month sends an important signal that RTE is here to serve everyone and over the last three years RTE has sought to include these communities and extend understanding through a range of specially-produced content, campaigns and partnerships.

“Public discussion – sometimes uncomfortable, difficult and contentious – is central to RTE’s prescribed purpose.”

The head of RTE Radio One Peter Woods said yesterday that he accepted and regrets that the Liveline programmes caused hurt.

He added: “Everything that goes out on air on Radio One is not going to be to everybody’s satisfaction all the time.

“But what matters most in what we do is how we approach it and why we do it, and that we try to shine a light and we try to engage with people, and we try to express a variety of opinion across the airwaves.”

‘Name calling’ 

When asked about the controversy today, the Taoiseach said there is room for further discussion and engagement with trans community, but on platforms and in forum “that facilitate informed discussion and dialogue as opposed to, sort of, name calling or settings which may or may not be conducive to a more informed approach”. 

He said the Dáil is there for various state agencies to explain their rationale and back up decisions that are taken.

“I think the most critical thing for people within the trans community is understanding, is acceptance. Acceptance is the most important issue for a trans person, and that the discussion is a sensitive and tolerant one that understands the need to broaden the community acceptance of this.

“It’s a very challenging journey for a person. Everybody should recognise that. So we must all work collectively to make the debate, just like we did prior to marriage equality, make it a societal-wide debate, that unites people, as opposed to divide people – that should be our agenda,” he said 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said today that he hopes RTÉ and Dublin Pride organisers can “come together again and sort out” a dispute over a Liveline discussion on trans issues.

He said he did not hear the radio programmes that were broadcast. 

“I know a lot of members of the trans community are very upset” about the RTE Radio One Liveline discussion, the Enterprise Minister told reporters in Dublin on Thursday.

“These are very sensitive issues, these are very personal issues. We should talk about them and debate them.

“But if we are talking about issues that relate to trans people or any minority group, it’s important that they’re part of the debate and part of the conversation, and they felt that they were left out of that.”

Committee hearing

The Oireachtas Media and Culture Committee agreed yesterday to invite RTÉ to appear before it to discuss the situation in the coming week.

Labour’s Anne Hoey, who is a member of the committee, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the committee wants to hear from RTÉ “in their own words how they believe they got into this situation”.

“We’d also like RTE to update the committee on their vision and strategy for diversity inclusion at the national broadcaster. The partnership with Dublin Pride was a key part of that. So how do they see that going forward?” she said. 

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne, another committee member, said RTÉ are not being hauled in, but are being invited to appear to “talk about the issues around trans rights and around some of the language that’s been used”.

“I think it is important to say RTÉ has a very good record on LGBT rights. It’s recognised as a good employer. But there are times when inappropriate language can be used. And I think there’s certainly questions around some of the language that was used during the Liveline programmes.

“Some of the remarks that were made did cause genuine hurt and part of that is about understanding and learning,” he said, adding that he hopes RTE and Dublin Pride sit down and discuss these issues. 

Byrne added that he believes it is important that there is a discussion about “some of the concerns that have been expressed by the trans community”, adding that RTE should outline what is going to be done to “ensure that trans views are expressed more fairly in the future”.