A member of the Rural Independent Group has called for state funding for alt-right website Gript. Michael Collins, independent TD for Cork South-West, made the comments in the Dáil yesterday when debating an amendment to the Planning and Development, Heritage and Broadcasting Bill.
Last year Gript’s editor, John McGuirk, published on the website the personal details of a trans woman due to be released from a secure unit. Gardaí later revealed they were investigating an alleged leak of information from its PULSE system to Gript in relation to the incident.
After discussing the housing and environmental details of the bill, Collins moved on to the topic of broadcasting. The bill proposes to make amendments to sections 127 and 162 of the Broadcasting Act of 2009. Section 127 deals with funding of a free-to-air Irish Film Channel whilst section 162 allows the communications minister to order tv stations to air “events of major importance to society” for free.
But TD Collins was concerned with the “monopoly on funding” for broadcasters that exists, pointing out that “RTÉ commands the full licence fee”. He argued that the station does not offer fair and balanced reporting, singling out its coverage of the Climate Action Bill.
Describing this as “disgraceful”, Collins then declared that the only way to tackle this is by redistributing the television licence fee to other broadcasters. He told the Dáil:
The only way that the tables will turn in a fair and distributive way is if the television licence money is spread out to other media providers, including Virgin Media, Gript and local radio stations and newspapers.
And he closed his contribution on the topic by insisting that the state can’t keep funding RTÉ when it “decides to keep out one side of a story and has no fair balance”.
In September 2019 Collins told the Dáil that the government should “Look after our own people first” before helping asylum seekers. He also claimed “we’re losing our culture” due to immigration.
Last year The Beacon revealed that gardaí were investigating an apparent leak from its PULSE system to Gript. It came after the website published the personal details of a vulnerable trans woman. Her details were allegedly given to the website by somebody with access to the garda PULSE system. At the time a garda spokesperson told The Beacon gardaí were “making enquiries into the origin of this information”.
McGuirk, Gript’s editor, was also recently in the news after he made false claims about Republican group Éirígí. During an appearance on Prime Time on 2 March, McGuirk claimed that the group was responsible for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in April 2019. But another Republican group, Saoradh, was responsible for McKee’s murder.
As a result of the comments RTÉ paid €20,000 in damages as well as broadcasting an apology.
Gript regularly echoes far-right talking points. In recent months it’s also posted articles critical of the lockdown measures and pieces claiming that the danger of COVID-19 has been overstated.
Featured image via Oireachtas.ie