There has been much comment about last night’s Prime Time Programme and I wish to thank the very many people who have sent and published messages of support.
Notwithstanding, some have asked why I was not on the programme in the studio discussion. The answer to this is straightforward. I was at all times available and ready to travel to RTE in Donnybrook for that but the programme makers told me the evening before that as the Gardai were not putting forward a spokesperson for the studio discussion and relying on the recorded interview with CS Healy, it would not be appropriate to have a spokesperson from the “other side” either as the “other side” was also being included by way of recorded interview. And so they opted for two people who would have opposing views on the matter but not directly representative of the two sides.
What followed in the programme should be quite obvious to anyone who watched it. The footage was heavily edited, particularly the interviews. There was a recorded ten minute interview with me and a further ten minute recorded interview with Michael Tope. What was broadcast was approximately 10 seconds of each. There was an excellent interview recorded with Paul Walsh on the mountain which was not broadcast at all. The very reason and basis for the request from the Oireachtas Press Office to have the Prime Time broadcast unit along was to cover the visit of the Justice Committee to Harbour House and do an interview with the Committee’s Chair. None of his interview was broadcast either.
The entire programme was heavily biased towards criminal use of firearms and no attempt was made to broadcast the material which they had from us which would have brought balance to the discussion. Set against that background there was then a studio discussion in which Deputy Finnian McGrath was allowed to persistently talk over William Egan and where Miriam O’Callaghan would not allow William to address the very basis on which the current proposals are based – the false statistics on stolen forearms published by the Gardai – while allowing Deputy McGrath quote them liberally. She said the statistics would “bamboozle” everyone! How insulting to the viewing audience! The entire discussion for such a complex and sometimes emotive subject was afforded just over 7.5 minutes. William Egan has nothing to prove in terms of his commitment and expertise in defending shooting. His track record speaks for itself. He was simply prevented from making his points by the discussion moderator.
The programme, despite the producers having all and sufficient data and material given to them, was unbalanced, biased and trivialised by virtue of not what it addressed, but what it did not. A third party has lodged a formal and detailed complaint about the programme.
We have a clear objective and strategy in relation to the current proposals from which I have no intention of being deflected and we are progressing that strategy today as planned. Comments to public representatives are now even more important.