You might recall hearing Michael Kennedy TD on the radio last week demanding the resignation of RTÉ’s director general for showing the Cowen pictures on the main evening news.
Here’s an exchange of emails between us and Mr Kennedy.
Unfortunately, although he responded quickly to our first email, he seems to have gone quiet after receiving our reply. He’s having trouble with that difficult second email.
Dear Mr Kennedy
We operate one of the most widely-read current-affairs web sites in Ireland, and we will shortly be running an article ridiculing your pomposity in calling for Cathal Goan’s resignation. The article will suggest that you are a deeply authoritarian individual, unfit to hold public office in a modern democracy.
It only seems fair to offer you the opportunity to comment on this article before its publication, which will probably be in the coming week.
Thank you for your communication and I set out below my views and comments on the matter:
1. I accept satire’ in all its forms once it is based in a context of comedy and entertainment.ie a separate “Spitting Image” type tv show. I enjoy Nob Nation, Scrap Saturday etc
2. I believe in the right of free speech.
3. My objection to the RTE News broadcast is based on my belief that the 9pm News is not a comedy or entertainment show but a â€˜serious’ issues broadcast that international TV and Media will ‘pick up’ on.
4. The fact that minutes after the 9pm News, media in the USA, Australia and the UK had the 2 portraits on their websites proves my point
5. RTE could have s hown the 2 portraits on any of their â€˜comedy’ style shows such as Podge and Rodge. I would have no difficulty in accepting such.
6. In my opinion, the particular broadcast denigrated and belittled the Office and position of An Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of our country. I hold the view that the Office of An Taoiseach / President / Government Minister are bigger than the individuals who hold the position.
7. The manner in which the item was broadcast was a gross insult to the Office of An Taoiseach and I would hold the same view if Enda Kenny or Eamon Gilmore held Ministerial positions.
8. The fact that RTE immediately withdrew any further broadcasts before any apology was sought proves they believed it was an inappropriate broadcast.
9. Neither I nor anybody in Fianna Fáil requested the GardaÃ to get
10. The Galleries in question have confirmed they sought the help of the GardaÃ in relation to the breach of security.
11. The lack of security at these Galleries raises questions – if a
valuable painting was stolen in such a casual act, would there not be
12. The fact that anybody can casually walk in with a picture under one’s arm, pass the door security, walk along the corridors and hang a painting in some exhibition room without any of the Gallery staff witnessing the event is worrying. What if a terrorist planted a bomb or as I have said above, stole a painting?
13. I regard myself as having a sense of humour and see politicians and others in public life as ‘fair game’ but insulting the Office of An
Taoiseach is ‘not on’.
14. If RTE felt the need to include the Sunday Tribune ‘story’ in a news item, they could have reported that 2 Galleries had called in the Gardaí to investigate a breach of security without resorting to ‘gutter style’ attack on the office and position of An Taoiseach.
15. The international reputation of Ireland can do without our Prime
Minister being ridiculed on our national television station.
I conclude by saying I felt outraged by the RTE broadcast and I hope I have explained my position.
Michael Kennedy TD
P.S.1. Kindly advise your address for my records.
P.S.2. If this ‘portrait’ was of a woman, would you agree there would be public outrage.
P.S.3. Do the feelings of Mrs. Cowen and her two daughters matter in this â€˜toilet humour’? What of Brian Cowen’s ageing and sick mother?
Your interview on the Pat Kenny show
Congratulations on your interview with Pat Kenny this morning. It is
high time that respect for “the Taoiseach and ministers” should become compulsory in Ireland. I look forward to your introduction of Sharia Law and the launch of the Taliban Branch of Fianna Fail in the near future. Keep up the good work.
Dear Mr Kennedy
Our web address is www.bocktherobber.com. You will not like it. You will find it contains quite a lot of content critical of the recent actions by an Garda SÃochÃ¡na and your own party.
If I may take a few of your points, according to your own numbering system.
Point 3. I am not clear on how a politician is qualified to tell a broadcaster what is a serious news issue and what is not. Is it your view that government has the final say on what items the news should be permitted to report?
Points 6, 7 and 13. There seems to be no reference to the position of Taoiseach in the paintings. There is a likeness of Mr Cowen, which does not seem to be a caricature of him, but a fair likeness. Can you clarify how the office, as opposed to the person, of the Taoiseach was ridiculed?
Point 9. If Fianna FÃ¡il was not involved, one must speculate as to the identity of the “powers that be” to whom the Garda referred.
Points 11 1and 12. The artist, as far as I am aware, did neither of the things you mention: steal a painting or plant a bomb. To the best of my knowledge, he placed a painting in a gallery which is not an unusual thing for an artist to do.
We have sought opinion from three lawyers on this, and all agree that the only possible offence committed by Mr Casby might be one of trespass. However, a leading legal professional and academic, Eoin O’Dell, is of the opinion that the degree of trespass in question is trivial and that a conviction would in any case be struck down by the Supreme Court as an unconstitutional interference in freedom of expression.
Point 15. A well-known PR professional, Terry Prone, has stated publicly that the international exposure was generated by the government press secretary’s inept handling of the matter and by the Garda’s disproportionate response to pressure from the powers that be, whoever they might be.
On your supplementary comments, since the picture is not of a woman, but of Mr Cowen, I have no way of speculating on what the reaction might be, nor does it seem relevant to the issue at hand. However, I have seen many unflattering caricatures of the Minister for Health which do not seem to have elicited the same response from an Garda SÃochÃ¡na or from Fianna FÃ¡il for that matter.
Mr Cowen’s family are always going to feel the sting whenever he is lampooned, criticised or satirised. That is the unfortunate reality of life for anyone who places himself in the public eye.
I am not clear what significance the email you attached from Michael Hennerty has.
I’m gutted. It turns out that Michael wasn’t replying to me directly at all, but simply sending me the same cut-and-paste reply he sends to everyone emailing him about this subject.
Why don’t you try it yourself and see if he sends you the same answer? His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isn’t it a pity he didn’t get a grown-up to help him with the confused logic before he sent out all these identical replies?
I remind you, people: this is a member of the party that leads our country at a time of unprecedented crisis.
What the hell, I thought. Why not send him another email? Here it is.
Dear Mr Kennedy,
As we did not receive a reply to our last email, we have taken the liberty of publishing our correspondence with you in full without, unfortunately, your response.
If you wish to respond to our points, you might like to do so at this point.
I would also want to clarify one issue, if I may. Your response to this query seems to be identical in every way to the responses you have sent to a number of other correspondents. Could you please confirm that you are sending pre-written statements to people who write to you?
Could you also please clarify why you are requesting details of people’s home addresses? Is this an attempt to intimidate your correspondents?
All Bock posts on this subject: