Broadcaster apologises over suicide remark

RTÉ has apologised after the father of a young man who took his own life complained about a remark by horse trainer Ted Walsh while commentating on the Galway hurdle on Thursday.

Ted Walsh also apologised for the throwaway remark.

New media guidelines by the Samaritans and the Irish Association of Suicidology were issued earlier this week. They caution against simplifying the sensitive subject and stress that the message that suicide is a preventable phenomenon if given the right support should be promoted by the media.

John O’Sullivan of Tralee, whose 21-year-old son Alan died in Oct 2009, had been watching the tight finish of the race when Mr Walsh remarked that the jockey on the favourite, and the ultimate winner, would have been “suicidal” had he lost.

Mr O’Sullivan, whose son’s birthday is on Aug 19, rang RTÉ and was told to put his complaint in writing.

In a formal complaint he said he wanted to express his “utter revulsion” at the remark. It had been a throwaway comment from “the master of the ridiculous comment”, but it was nevertheless one which every parent, sibling, and friend of a suicide victim would take offence to, he said.

“This is not a matter to be trivialised by anyone, especially the public service broadcaster,” wrote Mr O’Sullivan, who works with the Kerry network of disabilities.

In a statement RTÉ said: “RTÉ’s racing coverage of the Galway Races... featured an inappropriate choice of words by analyst Ted Walsh following one if the races.

“Both Ted and RTÉ wish to apologise for any hurt or offence that was caused.”

RTÉ’s group head of sport, had written to all on-air staff and contributors to remind them of their responsibilities in their use of language “around this sensitive issue”, it said.

* www.samaritans.ie


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