Lining up at a shop in Knock, one of Ireland's main Catholic shrines, in early December 2020 (Simon Roughneen)
Lining up outside a shop in Knock, one of Ireland’s main Catholic shrines, in early December 2020 (Simon Roughneen)
DUBLIN — After receiving what is described as “a significant number” of complaints, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ on Thursday apologised for and said it would remove from its website a sketch depicting God as a rapist that it broadcast as part of a New Year’s Eve countdown show.
The public television and radio station said the item, which was “intended as satire,” did not comply with its Editorial Standards Board requirements. “On behalf of RTÉ, I fully apologise,” said director-general Dee Forbes.
RTÉ, which receives state funding, on Wednesday said it had fielded “approximately 4,375 emails and 1,390 calls” regarding the mock news broadcast, which was written by satirical website Waterford Whispers News and voiced by Aengus Mac Grianna, a former news anchor, who apologised earlier this week.
Eamon Martin, the head of Ireland’s Catholic bishops, said he was “shocked” that the producers of the broadcast “did not realize how deeply offensive” the sketch was.
Josepha Madigan, Ireland’s minister for special education, said that she was “very concerned about flippant jokes being made about a topic as serious as rape.”
Psychiatrist Patricia Casey accused RTÉ in a newspaper column of being selective in how it satirizes religion, writing that the violent reactions to a Danish newspaper publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohamad in 2005 and the French publication Charlie Hebdo doing likewise in later years, would deter RTÈ from lampooning Islam the same way it does Christianity.
Atheist Ireland, which campaigns for “a secular state,” defended the broadcasting of the sketch and said it “will support the use of satire to challenge beliefs.”
The mea culpa was the second issued by RTÉ in recent weeks. Station bosses and broadcasters said sorry in November after several employees were photographed at a party in breach of coronavirus-related social distancing guidelines.
RTÉ broadcast a radio apology in November 2019 to author Kevin Myers over an “untrue and defamatory” 2017 suggestion that the former Sunday Times columnist was a “holocaust denier.”
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