Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin weigh in on RTÉ and Dublin Pride controversy

"Liveline failed to recognise the vulnerability of the Trans community, their needs and contributed instead by stigmatising, misrepresenting and further harming trans people," wrote Trans Equality Together.

Split screen: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (left) and Taoiseach Micheál Martin (right), both of whom have weighed in on the Dublin Pride RTÉ controversy
Image: Via Twitter @LeoVaradkar | @MichealMartinTD

Leo Varadkar has expressed hope that RTÉ and Dublin Pride will “come together” and “sort out” their differences over the recent Liveline controversy.

After Joe Duffy hosted a series of programmes for RTÉ Radio 1 which were considered to be platforming transphobic rhetoric, Dublin Pride announced on Tuesday, June 14, that it was severing its partnership with the national broadcaster.

“These are very sensitive issues, these are very personal issues. We should talk about them and debate them,” said Tánaiste Varadkar to reporters, after acknowledging that “a lot of members of the Trans community are very upset” about the Liveline programme’s content.

“But,” he continued, “if we are talking about issues that relate to Trans people or any minority group, it’s important that they’re part of the debate and part of the conversation, and they felt that they were left out of that.”

According to the campaigning body Uplift, over 1,000 of their members have reached out to RTÉ expressing concern about the content that was aired on June 9, 10 and 13.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has called the broadcaster “forward-looking” overall, which many consider to be a defence of the broadcasts in question.

“[RTÉ] has been effective in having, if you like, a broader and more tolerant debate around these issues over the decades. It has been progressive in relation of advancing greater tolerance and greater equality across the board,” he said.

“There is room for further discussion and engagement with the Trans community,” he added. “I think we have to be very sensitive and have platforms … that facilitate informed discussion and dialogue, as opposed to maybe name-calling and saying things that may not be conducive to a more informed approach.”

The newly launched Trans Equality Together coalition, spearheaded by TENI, BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland, has also called for action from the national broadcaster.

“…Liveline failed to recognise the vulnerability of the trans community, their needs and contributed instead by stigmatising, misrepresenting and further harming trans people,” they wrote in a letter, detailing their concerns and points of action to be taken.

“We are calling on RTÉ to make a renewed commitment to implement its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, deliver on its commitment to provide diversity and inclusion training to all RTÉ employees; and ensure that, in future, all programmes will strike the correct balance between editorial freedom and the right to free speech while protecting and giving a voice to vulnerable minorities like the trans and non-binary community in Ireland.”

On Wednesday, June 15, head of RTÉ Radio 1 Peter Woods “accepted and regrets that the Liveline programmes caused hurt”, according to Limerick Live.

“Everything that goes out on air on Radio One is not going to be to everybody’s satisfaction all the time,” he said. “But what matters most in what we do is how we approach it and why we do it, and that we try to shine a light and we try to engage with people, and we try to express a variety of opinion across the airwaves.”

Following the broken partnership between RTÉ and Dublin Pride, the broadcaster was invited before the Oireachtas to share their perspective on the controversy.

Fianna Fáil Senator and committee member Malcolm Byrne said that the issue could be well debated before the Oreachtas Committee.

“I think it important that Dublin Pride and RTÉ would engage and talk to each other,” he said. “The way to achieve change is through understanding and dialogue.”

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