The radical nest that was RTE

A final burst of history today as the Sunday Times homes in on the Sticky story within RTE, extracting from a new account by Brian Hanley and Scott Millar. The gist of the story comes under the category of “everybody knew” at the time but there’s lots of fascinating detail. RTE although not quite central to the Troubles was harder hit than was the BBC in Belfast as a national broadcaster by Section 31 and the associated mindset, the RTE Authority being sacked in 1971.The wonder is that some government didn’t try to turf all these interesting colleagues out. A case of Lynch moderation again and someone stilling the hand of CC O’Brien? However much the Irish parties ducked and weaved over their response to the Troubles in the north, “subversion” in the Republic was a different matter. Political factions in RTE seemed to me to be the product of a stultified clientism much more like the north’s than they cared to admit. It provoked a radical response among the young attracted to TV journalism. Its radical anti-provo edge is still alive and well, not least in the Sunday Times and Guardian. While there was quite a wide spectrum of left opinion, ironically it was the CP tradition north and south which produced some the most vigorous defences of unionism, deriding nationalism as a false consciousness. Comment on the book is eagerly awaited from more than Eoghain Harris. I bet that former Today Tonight reporter Mary McAleese has opinions she’ll be sitting on until her memoirs.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London