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Complaint over Paul Williams calling some Sinn Féin voters "drug dealers" and "killers" on Late Late dismissed

Williams said that anyone who voted for Sinn Féin on foot of the party’s plan to get rid of the Special Criminal Court were ‘drug dealers, killers, kidnappers, and terrorists’.

williams Paul Williams Source: RTÉ

A COMPLAINT THAT RTÉ’s Late Late Show had failed to show fairness and impartiality towards Sinn Féin following comments made by crime journalist Paul Williams has been dismissed by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

The show in question was broadcast on Friday 19 February 2016.

Williams was being interviewed by Ryan Tubridy and was asked about Sinn Féin’s announced pre-election plan to ban the Special Criminal Court.

In response he said: “the only people who will vote for Sinn Féin, in regard to that part of their manifesto, are the drug dealers, the killers and the kidnappers and the terrorists.”

No wonder the guys walking on Francis Street were smirking – because they heard about this legislation. ‘Thank God, Sinn Féin are going to get rid of that – we’re going to vote for them’.

The complainant stated that RTÉ, per its own mission statement, must remain impartial at all times and show fairness and equality, and complained that in broadcasting Williams’ opinions on Sinn Féin the broadcaster had failed to do so.

They further stated that Tubridy should have shut down the interview, or apologised immediately for Williams’ comments.

RTÉ Response

In its response to the complaint, RTÉ stated that in so speaking Williams had gone off-script – given the nature of the piece, which described the history of the Hutch-Kinahan crime feud, it had been rehearsed and planned in advance.

RTÉ insisted that Tubridy had tried to cut Williams off but had failed to do so.

The broadcaster drew a distinction between Williams saying people who support Sinn Féin are killers, but rather he had meant that anyone who supports the party’s plan to abolish the Special Criminal Court is one.

Decision

The Executive Complaints Forum of the BAI unanimously rejected the complaint.

The forum noted that the interview in question was on the subject of crime in Dublin, not politics.

It also noted that Tubridy had insisted that Williams’ opinions on the Special Criminal Court were not relevant to the discussion, and that fairness in such scenarios can be achieved via the contribution of the presenter.

Citing the right to free expression, the forum decided that in broadcasting the comments RTÉ did not infringe its fairness, objectivity or impartiality requirements.

On this basis, the viewer’s complaint was rejected.

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