16 August 2007 Edition
Remembering the Past
RTÉ bans Adams book ad
BY SEÁN Mac BRADAIGH
In August 1992 RTÉ refused to accept an advertisement from the publishers of a book of short stories by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. In contrast to the self-censors in RTÉ, the independent radio station 98FM broadcast an interview with Adams who gave his response to the ban by the state broadcaster. It was the first time Adams’ voice was broadcast by a station in the 26 Counties.
Both incidents occurred on the same day, 15 years ago during the era of blatant political censorship in the broadcast media under the notorious Section 31 legislation. Brandon Books submitted an advertisement for The Street and Other Stories to RTÉ on 18 August 1991. The station said they would not accept the ad because the author’s voice was used. This was despite the ruling in the Larry O’Toole case, challenging RTÉ’s interpretation of Section 31, which made clear that RTÉ was not prevented from interviewing Sinn Féin members when they were not acting as party spokespersons. The ban provoked protest from the publishers and then on that same Tuesday evening, in their 7pm news bulletin the Dublin-based radio station carried an interview with Gerry Adams. The 98FM news service was supplied to local stations around the 26 Counties who also broadcast the item.
In the brief but historic interview the Sinn Féin President said: It would be quite laughable that you have broadcasters actually censoring a book publisher and stopping him from putting an advertisement on the basis that I wrote a book.”
He described the book as “mostly light hearted, some reflecting the sadder aspects of life, but none of it party political at all”.
In the Larry O’Toole judgement on 31 July that year, the High Court found that RTÉ had misinterpreted Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act by extending it far beyond the requirements of the law.
That ruling put the obligation on RTÉ to end its self-censorship. Instead the station maintained it and shamefully appealed the judgement to the Supreme Court.
Sinn Féin Vice President Pat Doherty said:
“That 98FM could interview Gerry Adams about his book and RTÉ ludicrous refusal to broadcast the ad, but could not interview him about his politics, shows up a government and establishment too immature to face up to the reality of real opposition. Hiding behind the screen of Section 31, the government and establishment are attempting to protect themselves from having to answer for or make any commitment to solving the ongoing conflict in our country.”
The Adams book ad ban and the first broadcast interview by any station in the 26 Counties occurred on 18 August 1992, fifteen years ago this week.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.