RTÉ have taken some flak and even a High Court challenge in recent weeks over the selection of panels for election coverage. Labour’s Dominic Hannigan was incensed following his exclusion from a Week in Politics debate and penned a letter accusing the station of “sexing up its coverage” and “making up the rules as it went along”.
RTÉ have justified their decisions based on past and present electoral performance. However, even Luke ‘Ming’ Flannagan, an outgoing MEP, tweeted his surprise after RTÉ shared a photo of rival candidates preparing for a debate in studio yesterday.
— Luke 'Ming' Flanagan (@lukeming) May 15, 2019
The station’s rationale was further undermined when Drivetime’s Mary Wilson spent the opening ten minutes quizzing candidates on what they thought they were doing running in the first place? Anne Rabbitte, Fidelma Healy Eames, Maria Walsh and otherswere questioned under the assumption that they don’t really stand a chance. Surely this opens the question of how some outsiders are chosen over others?
A question which was soon answered. In recent years the journalists have insisted on their ability to challenge and expose controversial views. However, when it rolled around to Peter Casey yesterday, Wilson did not even pose a question. She simply said, “Peter, you wanted to talk about immigration?” and let him at it. The debate almost immediately descended into a free for all with each candidate shouting over each other in an attempt to become a hero next to the villainous dragon.
Wilson finished by asking candidates if they would welcome a state visit from Donald Trump. How this related to their competencies in the European Parliament was never explained.
Things took an even stranger turn on Virgin Media where Pat Kenny presided over a bizarre spectacle.
Audiences were treated to Neil Hamilton, leader of UKIP Wales, duking it out with Pearse Doherty, neither of whom are contesting the election. Sinn Féin have said that the show asked for Doherty and would not accept an MEP. Michael Harding delivered a message to Jacob Rees Mogg from a bridge in Cavan all between wearisome skits from Jason Byrne and Eamon Dunphy.
Politics itself was thin on the ground. Whatever about RTÉ’s attempt to ‘sex up’ coverage, Virgin Media tried be several shows in one, succeeding at none.