DRUGS Minister Pat Carey said he was “taken aback” by RTÉ’s silence over Gerry Ryan’s cocaine death and said the broadcaster had “sold itself short” in not coming out earlier.
The minister said allegations in the Sunday Independent of corrupt gardaí protecting cocaine-using celebrities, including Mr Ryan, “cast a slur on all gardaí”. He said he expected both the editor and the journalist involved to cooperate with a Garda probe into the allegations.
The minister said RTÉ, and the media generally, were “very judgmental” about model Katy French, who died from cocaine in December 2007, and it had now “come home to roost in their own case”.
Referring to comments made by RTÉ’s head of communications, Kevin Dawson, on Morning Ireland yesterday, the minister said: “I have been a bit taken aback, first of all, by the whole attitude of RTÉ over the last while. I recognise the need to protect the sensitivities of Gerry Ryan’s widow and partner and his family, but in a large organisation that is not short of preaching to the rest of us about what we should and shouldn’t be doing about our responsibilities, I thought and still feel that RTÉ sold itself short to be quite honest in not coming out earlier.”
He said if he acted in a similar way he would have been “pretty well filleted” on the same programme. All employers should be well aware of their responsibilities, not least towards the welfare of employees suspected of taking illegal or legal drugs.
The minister said he would be certain organisations like RTÉ would have welfare staff to advise and assist people with substance use problems. “It’s too easy to turn a blind eye to people’s idiosyncrasies, or whatever, but lives are at risk. At the end of this chain there’s a dealer, there is someone making money.”
He expected cooperation from people within RTÉ to Garda inquiries into the supply of cocaine.
In relation to the story in the Sunday Independent — alleging “corrupt gardaí” hid Gerry Ryan’s cocaine habit — Mr Carey said he would be concerned about it, “if it were true”. He was reassured the Garda Commissioner had set up an investigation into the claims.
“I’m assuming the editor and the journalist involved in those reports will cooperate with gardaí. I believe it is their function. I really don’t want to hear too much about protecting sources, this is too important for that.”
A spokesperson for RTÉ said: “The minister was entitled to his view and RTÉ would respect that. However, RTÉ from the very earliest stages from the Gerry Ryan inquest dealt with media enquiries and supplied details of its own policy on drug and alcohol abuse in its workplace. To respond, as the minister has done, to so full and frank a statement as RTÉ has made at this stage, is disappointing.”
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