Off Message

Free speech can be a bugger sometimes.

In 1987, Ray Crotty went to court to stop the government ratifying the Single European Act, a European treaty without a referendum.

Crotty won, and the government had to hold a referendum.

Fast forward eight years to the McKenna judgement. This time, the courts told the government it couldn’t use public funds to argue one side of the toss.

The Coughlan judgement, a few years later, held that broadcasters – and specifically RTE – must give equal time to both sides of an argument during referendum debates.

Which brings us to Willie O’Reilly, head of the Independent Broadcasters Association, who appeared today before the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution to call the Coughlan judgement a ‘crank’s charter‘.

These days, any unelected yokel can get in front of a microphone and argue his side.

Worse again, the electorate was actually won over by their arguments during the Lisbon referendum campaign.

Whether the arguments were valid or not is another day’s work. For now though, the problem for the political mainstream isn’t that the messenger has to air views they don’t like. It’s that their own arguments aren’t persuasive.

But shooting the messenger is easier.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.