Senator David Norris hit out today at the Iona Institute and the response of RTE to claims that it had libeled the institute and others as a result of Rory O’Neill’s comments on homophobia in the Irish media, which were broadcast on the Saturday Night Show two weeks ago. The broadcaster apologised for O’Neill’s comments and paid sums reportedly totalling some €85,000.
Speaking in the Seanad, Senator Norris branded the payments “a disgrace”.
“As a taxpayer, as a licence-payer and all the rest of it, I’d like to know why my money is being given to these people,” Senator Norris said of the Iona Institute. He also described the institute as “self appointed” and “answerable to nobody”.
Senator Norris also asked that the Seanad hold a debate on homophobia, which he described as “rampant”.
Irish MEP Paul Murphy also raised the issue at the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday, describing the payments made by RTE as “a real attack on the freedom of speech”.
“When John Waters says that gay marriage is a kind of satire, that is homophobia,” Murphy said. “When Breda O’Brien says equality must take second place to the common good, that is homophobia. When the Iona Institute campaign against gay marriage because it is gay marriage, that is homophobia.”
Both the Seanad and the European Parliament are included under absolute privilege in Irish defamation law.