The Silence in Irish Broadcasting

  • Betty Purcell


This exchange actually took place between a senior radio executive and myself in August 1984. I quote it to demonstrate the fear and self-deception that any censorship law brings with it. Martin Galvin, of the Irish-American organisation, Noraid, was at the centre of some controversy that summer. He had been excluded from Britain and Northern Ireland, but had announced his intention to breach the order excluding him. Neither he nor his organisation were banned from the air waves under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, yet his views would be close enough to those of Sinn Féin. It was clear that he was being banned under the spirit of Section 31 yet, when the ban came down to me, the Section cited was Section 18(i), which, among other things, bans interviews avowing violence against the state. Since the interview was now being banned not on the basis of Galvin’s person but on the basis of what he might say, I suggested that we pre-record the interview and then judge whether there was in fact a breach of Section 18(i). No, I was told, the interview was not going ahead, and that was that. (I should point out that we have interviewed, in the course of programmes over the years, self-confessed Nazis and racial bigots, but none of these has been stopped under the Section invoked against Martin Galvin.)


Irish Government Emergency Provision Current Affair News Bulletin Irish Time 
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  1. 2.
    Quoted by Muiris Mac Conghail in ‘The Creation of RTE and the Impact of Television’, in Brian Farrell (ed.), Communications and Community in Ireland (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1984) p. 70.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Report of the Irish Broadcasting Review Committee (Dublin: Government Publications, 1974).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Lord Windlesham, ‘The Case for Press Freedom’, Broadcasting in a Free Society (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980) p. 15.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Ibid., p. 16.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    John A. Murphy, ‘Censorship and the Moral Community’, in Brian Farrell (ed.), Communications and Community in Ireland (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1984) p. 63.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bill Rolston 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Betty Purcell

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