RTE Iona Institute Payments Reveal Something Rotten at the Heart of the National Broadcaster

Iona accused of being “really horrible and mean”. Issues legal threats.

What exactly is the relationship between RTÉ and the pressure group, Lolek Ltd, which calls itself the Iona Institute?  The debacle following the Saturday Night Show, during which Rory O’Neill criticised the behaviour of certain people which he felt placed him at a disadvantage as a member of a minority by virtue of his sexual orientation, is unedifying to say the least.

Rory o neill miss panti iona institute saturday night live brendan o connor

With remarkable alacrity – not mention synchronicity – those same people bombarded RTÉ with a broadside of legal threats which led to a cringeing, cowardly climb-down by the broadcaster, removal of the video clip from the RTÉ website and a public apology read by the show’s presenter, Brendan O’Connor.

But more significantly, if this unseemly, gloating press release from Lolek Ltd is to be believed, RTÉ also handed over an undisclosed sum of money to  certain individuals in what it describes as damages.  To the best of my knowledge, damages are awarded by a court, and the Lolek Ltd threats remain untested in law.  Therefore, what RTÉ did was make ex-gratia payments to these individuals.

Even if you ignore the self-pitying tone of the headline: Threatening emails received by The Iona Institute, the Lolek Ltd press release has the usual smell of half-truth and spin about it, since O’Neill didn’t accuse any of the people associated with the ludicrous Iona Institute of being homophobic.  What he actually said was that they were really horrible and mean about gays.

Imagine how devastated your life would be if somebody accused you of being really horrible and mean.  That’s every teenage girl up before the courts for defamation.  In classic legal terms, it amounts to no more than vulgar abuse, and pretty mild abuse at that.

What is wrong with these people?  Are they so immature that they can’t stand a little criticism from somebody who is day in and day out on the receiving end of genuine prejudice?

Grow up, Lolek Ltd.

Now that RTÉ has handed over a chunk of money to certain people associated with this private company, perhaps it’s time certain questions were asked about the relationship between our national broadcaster and this small but extremely vocal assembly of fundamentalists.

Such questions might include the following:

Since Lolek Ltd is just another small niche PR company, why are its representatives afforded such a disproportionate level of access to the RTÉ studios?

Why are these people not introduced clearly by RTÉ presenters as representatives of Lolek Ltd?

Why did RTÉ collapse under the pressure of this flimsy legal threat?  It has been pointed out by legal professionals that what Rory O’Neill said was uttered in good faith and without malice, that as a member of a minority he was entitled to defend himself against what he saw as oppression and that in any case he didn’t accuse these individuals of being homophobic, even though some people would conclude that many of their campaigns are decidedly so.

It seems to me that there is a strand running deep within RTÉ that wishes to support this small but aggressive pressure group.  Up to now, that support has taken the form of unfettered access to the airwaves, but once the national broadcaster censors the sincerely-held views of a citizen, and hands over public funds to self-appointed moral guardians, we need to start asking hard questions.

Maybe this is a job for the Public Accounts Committee.



What exactly is the Iona Institute?
Same-Sex Marriage, Iona Nonsense and the Constitutional Convention
Constitutional Convention Votes for Same-Sex Marriage
Same-Sex Marriage
Misinformation Techniques





The Journal

Oireachtas retort

Open letter to RTE


13 thoughts on “RTE Iona Institute Payments Reveal Something Rotten at the Heart of the National Broadcaster

  1. “It seems to me that there is a strand running deep within RTÉ that wishes to support this small but aggressive pressure group.”

    I have been reluctant to accept this, arguing that their readiness with provocative and professionally presented opinions has been very convenient for journalists, but now accept it as most likely. Paying “damages” in the face of Iona’s intimidation is either spineless (folding before any threat), incompetent (interpreting a paper tiger as a real threat) or complicit (using the opportunity to change the framework of the debate, to enhance the power of this threat in future). I think the whole situation is pretty ugly now.

  2. It is important to remember that in modern Ireland, whatever else you do, you absolutely must not ever under any circumstances let your issues be heard in open court. The concept of a Day in Court is a taboo to our current ruling Ascendancy.

  3. Without wishing to come across as a defender of RTE here, as someone who works in the media, I might be able to provide some background. RTE almost certainly folded for fear of being taken to the Four Goldmines, as the Phoenix regularly terms them. The issue with being sued is not how much damages are awarded, it is the legal costs, which can be simply astronomical. Bock is correct in that Iona threatening to sue over these comments is pathetic in the extreme, but they did. And in realpolitik terms, it was easier to back down than risk a massive legal bill. That is the long and the short of it, and it’s what decides every defamation case in the State. Call it cowardice or what you will, but it’s how it works.

    With regard to the Iona Institute’s ridiculous prevalence, the explanation is probably more simple than a secret coven within RTE. As far as I can see, that shower are the only ones who will go out to bat for pro-marriage, pro-life or whatever when Prime Time or the Frontline are having a debate on it. And the state broadcaster is obliged by law to give both sides of the story. That’s why they get hauled on again and again – nobody else will fill that particular role.

    In any case, the fault lies not with the Iona Institute, who are democratically entitled to expound their views, however distasteful. It lies not even with the craven politicians who are afraid to take on the grey vote, large swathes of whom are in thrall to Iona and the pulpit. Rather, it lies with the huge body of young people who wouldn’t p*ss on these people if they were on fire, but who are not active enough in voting terms to counteract the ridiculous levels of influence this small yet extremely vocal minority possesses. Til that changes, we’ll still be living in a theocracy rather than a democracy.

  4. Well written Bock!

    Unfortunately the PAC don’t seem very interested at where the public money is being spent, at the moment. They’re too busy usurping the courts’ jurisdiction on other matters!

  5. One of the best lessons I learned from my schooling was “Follow the money trail”.
    A few years ago the American “National Organization for Marriage” was subpoenaed and a strategy document showed they were already working with organizations in other countries to enhance their movement since the tide had turned against them in the US.
    We know from studies that exchange – mercantile or otherwise – often follow linguistic groups. English speaking countries would be the best partners (Ireland, Uganda, for instance).
    The US system — 1) “Think Tanks” which publish convincing documents that avoid peer review, 2) multiple layers of opaque organizations (which Iona appears to be if one does a little online search) and 3) a smattering of people with Phd after their name to lend legitimacy — appears to be working just fine here.
    The text of the exchange -which RTE have blocked – is actually quite forgiving coming from someone who has almost certainly been subjected to brutality if not violence for simply being who he is. http://www.broadsheet.ie/2014/01/16/wisdom-is-bliss/
    To me the bottom line is this
    – The constitution establishes a level of rights and restrictions that all citizens can adhere to.
    – If some people choose to adhere to another set of restrictions –say from the RC church — they are free to do so.
    – However they are not free to insist that all citizens adhere to those restrictions.
    – Courts and legislative chambers do a fine job determining how the citizenry should cohabitate.

  6. Wasn’t Tom Savage once a catholic priest?

    Isn’t Tom Savage Chairman of the RTÉ Board?

    Didn’t Tom Savage set up The Communications Clinic with his wife Terry Prone, who is now its chairperson?

    Aren’t Fine Gael one Communications Clinic’s biggest clients?

    Wasn’t Senator Ronan Mullen of the Iona Institute very vociferous in insisting that Tom Savage not resign in the wake of the Father Kevin Reynolds affair?

    Aren’t the Iona Institute sort of an aggressive PR company for the very powerful Catholic Church?

    Wouldn’t we all love to know what the fuck is going on and when this incestuousness will end?

  7. bock your post comment thingy is bollix’d, methinks: wrote post, post deleted…Nice!

    Extremist group shuts down debate with help of national broadcaster, chilling potential ramifications. Not particularly surprised given the incestuous manner in which we prefer to do business. Fear of the high courts should be overruled by the citizens’ right to an open debate.

    Thanks bock for keeping at least one member of the unwashed masses informed on this subject from quiet a while back.

    Gj Thrive, glad you pointed out the connection between our extremist group and possible links with US extremist/fundamentalist groups (conservative far-right think tanks). These US extremist groups have a history of colluding with extremist groups in other countries (eg Russia Uganda) so why not ours?

    A little cynical, thanks for putting those hazy incestuous connections down in black and white. if they walk and talk like pricks then….

  8. Was Lolek not the pet name given to Karol Wojtyla in his childhood days. Cast your minds back; who was Karol Wojtyla..)?

  9. Pingback: Anonymous
  10. Is the new Head of RTE 1 Aidan Lynch in any way affiliated with Iona? Thanks.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.