RTÉ pays out €20k over John McGuirk linking Éirígí to journalist murder 

RTÉ pays out €20k over John McGuirk linking Éirígí to journalist murder 

John McGuirk made his claims on the March 2 episode of 'Prime Time'

RTÉ has had to pay €20,000 to charity after a radical Republican political group were falsely accused of murder.

During an episode of Prime Time on March 2, right-wing commentator John McGuirk incorrectly claimed that Éirígí was responsible for the killing of a journalist (a reference to Lyra McKee, who was shot in Derry by the dissident republican group Saoradh) and that Éirígí "endorses terrorism".

The statement was corrected at the end of the episode by Miriam O'Callaghan and a second apology was given on Tuesday by Prime Time presenter Louise Byrne.

The broadcaster and the group have come to a settlement, which includes: 

  • The broadcast of the second apology; 
  • The permanent removal from the RTÉ Player of the defamatory comments that were made by Mr McGuirk; 
  • The full apology uploaded to the RTÉ Player;
  • Charity payments by RTÉ of €5,000 to Inner City Helping Homeless, €5,000 to Capuchin Day Centre, and €10,000 towards a journalism bursary fund in the name of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, all nominated by Éirígí; 
  • The full payment of all legal fees by RTÉ.

Cathaoirleach of Éirígí, Brian Leeson said: “Following the defamatory comments that were made by John McGuirk on Prime Time, we instructed our legal team to engage with RTÉ for the purpose of securing a settlement which would go some way to undo the damage that was done by his comments.
For Éirígí, this was always a matter of principle. We did not set out to gain financial advantage individually or collectively from this situation. 

"But we did feel that it was appropriate for RTÉ to pay a financial price for the wrong that was done to the party and to our individual members."
He said they felt that was best done by securing "significant donations" from RTÉ for a number of charities.

"RTE have an obligation to ensure that Prime Time, arguably the most important current affairs programme in the country, is not used as a platform for the far-right to make false statements or spread disinformation. Hopefully, they will now put in place the necessary measures to prevent a repeat of what happened on March 2."

The group has told the Irish Examiner it is "keeping its legal options open" with regards to Mr McGuirk.

An RTÉ spokesperson said: "We corrected that statement on the night and have been asked by Éirígí to clarify that it is an open, registered political party that has never been involved in shooting a journalist and does not support violence. We are happy to do so and apologise sincerely for what was said."

Formed in 2006 by a group of "Dublin-based community and political activists",'Éirígí For A New Republic' says it is a radical socialist-republican alternative to other political parties.

Mr McGuirk worked on the 'No' campaign in recent referenda on abortion and against the Lisbon Treaty. He appeared on Prime Time to discuss anti-lockdown protests, despite admitting not having attended.

This article was amended at 6.47pm

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