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Sam Boal
dave fanning

Dave Fanning says Christy Dignam comments were in 'poor taste' after RTÉ receives complaints

In a tweet this afternoon, Fanning said his comments were “incredibly ill-timed and poor taste”.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Jun 2023

RTÉ HAS RECEIVED four official complaints as well as 41 emails and calls giving negative feedback after radio presenter Dave Fanning angered Aslan fans with his comments following the death of Christy Dignam last week. 

Dignam, the lead singer of Aslan, died last Tuesday.

People were quick to pay tributes to Dignam online and in the media in the days following his death but Fanning, appearing as a guest on Claire Byrne’s mid-morning RTÉ Radio 1 show, said that the singer “blew it royally”. 

In a tweet this afternoon, Fanning said he listened back to his segment on the radio about Dignam and said it was “incredibly ill-timed and poor taste”. 

Dignam’s musical career was interrupted by the singer’s struggles with addiction, and he was fired from the band in the wake of the release of their debut album before the group reunited in the early 1990s. 

That comment about Dignam ‘blowing it’ in particular was met with outrage from fans, who have been contacting RTÉ to vent their frustrations. 

Commenting on the session the band recorded for ‘The Fanning Sessions’, a section of his show that gave a platform to Irish bands, Fanning described the showcase as “a rung on the ladder” in the music business in Ireland at the time. 

“You know, it’s public service broadcasting, we don’t deserve praise for it, we should just do it. And we did it for 400 bands.

“The point about that is when Aslan did their session near the beginning, they were so pleased and so proud and so like, ‘Wow, this is a rung on the ladder that we have now reached, we can also use this as a demo tape for record companies’.”

Speaking of Dignam’s firing by his bandmates, Fanning added: 

“He blew it royally and he would say later on that, you know, ‘because I was abused at the age of six by a neighbour, and this hole of my life for ages so I filled it, not by trying to get high with heroin, but just by filling it with heroin to keep myself away from the memory of it.’

“I remember saying to him, ‘Are you sure about that now Christy? Are you sure you’re not trying to pull the wool over my eyes?’

“So look, you can look at it that way, if you like, that’s what I’m saying. Basically, what I’m saying is you have two things about people who go on heroin, get rid of them or doing the best you can with them.

“He just blew it. He left the band for five or six years… He came back then, a bunch of years later with Aslan and they had the biggest hit of all but it kind of went downhill after that in terms of major success.

“They really were the band for the people. The gigs – they played every gig around the country. You wouldn’t believe the places. All the time from Bundoran to Ballybunion to Bunclody, everywhere and they were really at one with the audience.

“I don’t necessarily think that’s always a good thing. I like a bit of mystique but it worked for them.”

In a statement an RTÉ spokesperson said: “RTÉ has received 4 formal complaints and 41 emails and calls to the RTÉ Information Office giving negative feedback in relation to Dave Fanning’s comments about Christy Dignam. We have no further comment.”

In his tweet this afternoon, Fanning said he listened back to his comments on the radio about Dignam “feeling that it wasn’t perhaps as bad as some comments have made out”. 

“Comments were right, I was wrong – it was bad,” Fanning said. 

“I was trying to highlight some deeper issues in Ireland during the eighties and I totally missed the mark. Incredibly ill-timed and poor taste. I really didn’t intend to come across that way,” he said. 

“Christy was honestly one of the nicest and most genuine people I met in the music business, as are all of Aslan, and I have said that many times down through the years. I particularly want to apologise to his family,” Fanning added. 

“Christy was ALWAYS a gentleman who deserves better than that from me.” 

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

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