The search for counter voices in same-sex ‘debate’

Coverage in same-sex debate remains biased

After the relentless and biased coverage of the Saturday Night Show incident two weeks ago I thought we’d get a break, but hardly had morning broken, Monday of last week, when the ‘homophobia’ controversy got another outing, this time on the Ray Darcy Show (Today FM).

Yet again drag artist Rory O’Neill (aka Panti Bliss) got a chance to promote his views and Darcy’s interview was one of the most obsequious and unchallenging I’ve heard in a long time, the most blatant evidence of media cheerleading for the pro-same-sex-marriage (ssm) lobby. Darcy was clearly in favour of ssm, and there was I thinking broadcasters should be fair and impartial. It was all a mixture of sour and tongue-in-cheek, as Darcy suggested that O’Neill should be able to marry a bucket if he wanted to!

Some texters dared suggest that marriage was something between a man and a woman or that some gay activists were extreme, but O’Neill, from the advantage of his studio perch, was dismissive of these contributors, again showing that those speaking against same-sex marriage are going to get an intolerant and judgmental roasting whenever they dare speak. So guess who is being silenced here? As the debate went on and Darcy was more and more supportive, I thought O’Neill became more extreme, scornful of opposition, and even at one stage suggesting that traditional marriage (which he characterised as a mother and father and two kids living near a nuclear power station) was invented by a cornflakes company!

O’Neill was right on one thing, that the polls may not give an accurate view on how a referendum would turn out. No, once the opponents start using their ‘nasty’ approaches things may change. But then, O’Neill didn’t want the people to have a say at all – no, forget the referendum, just legislate for ssm now! Conveniently, this call featured on the Today FM News headlines that followed. Neat! However, later that evening George Hook, on The Right Hook (Newstalk) thought this suggestion was ‘balderdash’ and ‘a million miles away from democracy’.

From listening to this excuse of an interview and much of the previous coverage, a few things seem clear to me – it’s ok to attack and insult opponents of same-sex marriage, but homophobic even to argue with the other side; many media commentators are sympathetic to the ssm cause and are getting more blatant about it – notice the way the they have swallowed the ‘marriage equality’ language (e.g. Miriam O’Callaghan when she interviewed O’Neill the previous day on Sunday With Miriam on RTÉ Radio 1, another deferential and largely unchallenging interview) and keep using this loaded phrase as if it were part of neutral commentary. I’ve pointed it out before, and Paddy Manning, a gay man against ssm, mentioned it briefly in a recent Prime Time debate, there is already marriage equality – subject to the usual age restrictions and the like, every citizen of the State is free to enter into the institution of marriage as currently constituted in law. Also noteworthy is the way the gay activists are being facilitated in the media to make their agenda the most prominent in the recent Winter Olympics and the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York.

I didn’t come across any similarly fawning interview with a person of orthodox or conservative beliefs. I had to go outside traditional radio to find a contrasting item – on the Irish Times podcasts on On the weekly Inside Politics series Hugh Linehan gave Breda O’Brien a fair but challenging interview about the controversy. Her thoughtful comments and arguments contrasted with the patronising tone of the O’Neill’s contributions. She became quite emotional when speaking of the 'incredible cascade of vitriol', and of the effects the controversy has had on her as a teacher, losing the confidence of some of her students because of the ‘parody’ of her views that feature in the media. She was ‘really frightened’ about where the debate will go from here, and critical of the way O’Neill was given a chance on that Sunday With Miriam  programme on RTÉ Radio 1 to ‘repeat and enhance’ the substance (no names!) what he had said on that Saturday Night Show.

Actually, it did strike me as odd at the time that someone who had landed RTÉ into a defamation controversy had been given yet another extensive interview so soon on that channel.


Pick of the Week


RTÉ lyric fm, Sun 23 Feb 23, 8am

Gloria features a new recording of the music of Thomas Tallis, a romantic work from the superb boys of Winchester, Russian music from Tenebrae and lots of Bach.



EWTN Tues 25 Feb 25, 7.30 am

DRYDEN: 16th Century English poet John Dryden who converted to Catholicism.



RTÉ Radio 1 Fri 28 Feb 28, 10.02 pm

Topical religious affairs programme with Eileen Dunne.