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RTÉ to pay €20,000 to charity after republican party Éirígí is wrongly linked to murder on Prime Time

The broadcaster has come to a settlement with the group and issued an apology.

John McGuirk made the comments and has himself apologised.
John McGuirk made the comments and has himself apologised.
Image: RollingNews.ie

RTÉ HAS AGREED to make payments to charity totalling €20,000 as part of an apology to a republican political group that was wrongly accused of murder on Prime Time. 

The apology to political and activist group Éirigí comes following comments that were made by right-wing commentator John McGuirk during a segment about anti-lockdown protests on Prime Time on 2 March. 

During an exchange with Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond TD and Prime Time’s Louise Byrne, McGuirk incorrectly asserted that Éirigí was responsible for the fatal shooting of a journalist and that it endorses terrorism, a reference to the shooting dead of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry in 2019.

McGuirk had mentioned Éirigí in the context of what he claimed was the different treatment in the media of different types of protests. 

At the end of the programme on 2 March, presenter Miriam O’Callaghan clarified that his comments were incorrect. McGuirk himself later that evening tweeted that he “got my republican groups mixed up badly”. 

Political group Saoradh have been linked to the killing of McKee

Following on from RTÉ’s initial clarification, the broadcaster and Éirigí have come to a settlement that saw a second clarification and an apology read out on air this week.  

The agreement will see RTÉ make donations to charity totalling €20,000. The agreed payments will be to Inner City Helping Homeless (€5,000), the Capuchin Day Centre (€5,000) and the Lyra McKee Investigative Journalism Training Bursary (€10,000). 

The agreement will also see the permanent removal of the comments from the RTÉ player. 

In a statement, Éirigí cathaoirleach Brian Leeson said that the group had pursued a legal remedy “a matter of principle”. 

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“Following the defamatory comments that were made by John McGuirk on Prime Time, we instructed our legal team to engage with RTÉ for the purpose of securing a settlement which would go some way to undo the damage that was done by his comments,” Leeson said. 

For Éirígí this was always a matter of principle. We did not set out to gain financial advantage individually or collectively from this situation.  But we did feel that it was appropriate for RTE to pay a financial price for the wrong that was done to the party and to our individual members. 

Leeson told The Journal that Éirigí had chosen these charities as it has been active in campaigning on the issue of homelessness. He said the completion of the settlement concludes the matter with RTÉ. 

The second clarification and apology was read out on Prime Time by this week by Byrne when she stated:  

On the second of March last we broadcast an item about the protests held in Dublin city centre the previous Saturday. One of our live contributors wrongly said that the political party Éirigí was responsible for the shooting of a journalist and endorses terrorism in Northern Ireland. We corrected that statement on the night, and have been asked by Éirigí to clarify that it is an open-registered political party that has never been involved in shooting a journalist and does not support violence, We’re happy to do so and apologise sincerely for what was said.

In a series of tweets this evening, McGuirk has said he re-iterated his apology for mixing up the two groups. 

McGuirk is listed as the editor of the Gript website and was the spokesperson for the Save the 8th group which campaigned unsuccessfully to retain the Eighth Amendment.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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