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Tánaiste Micheal Martin and Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty Rolling News
Leaders' Questions

'Don't start this nonsense': Pearse Doherty and Tánaiste clash heads over TV licence in Dáil

Sinn Féin wants to see the TV licence scrapped and replaced with direct exchequer funding.

FOR A SECOND day in a row, the Government and Sinn Féin have clashed heads in the Dáil over the future of the TV licence. 

During Leaders’ Questions today, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty used his party’s slot to again ask the Government to scrap the TV licence and replace it with direct exchequer funding. 

Doherty noted the latest report into RTÉ, which was released yesterday, and said the public are sick of people not being held to account in the public broadcaster.

Yesterday’s report found that the exit package of the former chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe did not comply with the rules of RTÉ’s redundancy scheme.

Doherty said it was “no wonder” payment of the TV licence fee has “fallen off a cliff”. 

Tánaiste’s response

Responding to Doherty’s question about replacing the licence fee, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said he shared the deputy’s dismay at the range of issues that have unfolded in RTÉ.

However, he said he believes people should continue to pay their licence fee and added that he would have serious concerns about replacing the TV licence model with direct exchequer funding.

The Tánaiste said one of his concerns relates to the question of media independence and said direct exchequer funding would give any future Government undue power over public media.

“Sinn Féin’s instincts in terms of media have been fairly well demonstrated by your very serial record of suing media in this country,” Martin said. 

He accused Sinn Féin of coordinated behaviour “that is suppressing the media”.  

“It sounds great, full exchequer funding… but it means that any government in the future has a control over Irish media that would not be a healthy one,” Martin added. 

Doherty immediately got to his feet and listed a number of examples of Fianna Fáil parliamentary party members who also sued media organisations.

He said he never heard the Tánaiste “mutter a word” in those instances.

Doherty followed his list by saying: “And that’s just me googling in the last five minutes, so don’t start this nonsense”.

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