RTÉ recruiting anti-Water protesters: Rabbitte

Former communications minister Pat Rabbitte has accused RTÉ of acting as a “recruiting sergeant” for Sinn Féin and far left groups opposed to the Coalition’s water charges.

The Labour TD said in the Dáil last night that “lopsided coverage” of the water issue may have come from a decision by RTÉ’s board to “strangle Irish Water at birth”.

The unprecedented remarks about the broadcaster come as the Coalition attempts to persuade households to pay water bills, which will begin arriving in letterboxes in the coming weeks.

Mr Rabbitte launched his blistering attack during a Dáil debate on the charges.

He claimed RTÉ had not “informed” or “educated” taxpayers as required under broadcasting rules.

The Dublin South West TD said: “RTÉ has acted as a recruiting sergeant for those who have taken control of and are manipulating the water protests.”

He queried why the broadcaster had not produced shows on river pollution or water systems.

Mr Rabbitte also claimed the station was relying on a source inside Irish Water “who seeks to ground a natural bias with distorted information, half-truths and bits of emails and internal papers”.

“If I didn’t know better, one might conclude that the lopsided coverage of the water issue derives from a decision of the RTÉ board to strangle Irish Water at birth.

“Treatment of the water issue has regrettably fallen short of what licence-paying citizens should reasonably expect.”

Concern about RTÉ’s coverage was also raised at Labour’s parliamentary party meeting last night.

RTÉ said that it “absolutely refutes the claims of imbalanced and biased coverage”.

“This has proved to be a contentious issue and RTÉ analysis, debate and coverage has been proportionate and objective,” it said.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald described Mr Rabbitte’s comments as “bizarre” and said they “smacked of desperation”.

One Government minister last night said, “Rabbitte’s right. Bloody RTÉ”.

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