07 January 2006

RTE anger at Laird's 'IRA' jibes

Belfast Telegraph

Senior broadcasters are Provo moles: Ulster peer

By Ashleigh Wallace
07 January 2006

RTE last night hit back at claims by an Ulster politician that the Republic's broadcaster was full of IRA sympathisers.

Lord Laird used parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords to make the allegations that two senior officials at the national broadcaster had what he described as "extreme republican" backgrounds.

The UUP peer claimed that "very senior officials" in RTE were IRA moles yet failed to make an official complaint against the station despite his public allegations.

But RTE said last night: "We cannot think who he could be referring to."

Alleging infiltration of the southern media by IRA and Sinn Fein, Lord Laird singled out the station for criticism.

"That much of the media is now infiltrated and influenced by Sinn Fein/IRA can be seen in the highly negative reaction in sections of the southern media, in particular the State broadcaster RTE, against the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, when he outed and denounced Frank Connolly...," Lord Laird said during a debate on the new anti-terrorism law for Northern Ireland.

"It is not a coincidence that instead of being lauded for his actions, the Minister for Justice of the Irish Republic found himself the subject of a campaign of vilification in the Irish media. The worst example of biased coverage has been that of RTE.

"In view of the past two weeks, perhaps it is time that two very senior RTE officials explained their extreme republican backgrounds," he added.

Last night, the Ulster Unionist peer remained unrepentant about the comments.

And he vowed to name the men "at the earliest opportunity."

He said: "Questions have to be asked about why RTE consistently takes a Sinn Fein/IRA attitude in their views and in particular about Michael McDowell.

"I've got to wait for an opportunity but I will name them in the House of Lords and I will talk about their backgrounds the first chance I get."

When asked about RTE's denials about the allegations, Lord Laird replied: "Well they would say that, wouldn't they?"

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