I am having real difficulty getting my head around Picturegate.
Had somebody stood up in the Dáil and shouted: ‘”The Taoiseach has a small penis” there would be less exposure, indecent or otherwise, than what has resulted from the State’s ham-fisted censorship.
What I would like to know is who, specifically, ordered the Government Press Office to lean on RTÉ to make an apology and who in the national broadcaster caved in. Did Eileen Dunne, the newsreader who did the original report, agree?
If Brian Cowen had let this slide, it would have been a one-night story, with a possible follow-up when the artist came forward. The way Biffo handled it has made it a week-long story and a T-shirt.
Now the gardai are involved – police are investigating a cartoonist for drawing cartoons. They are even threatening a radio station with a warrant to seize email information on the artist (Today FM, at least, refused to roll over).
Again, we need facts – who made the initial complaint to gardai? That is surely a matter of record. Have CCTV tapes been handed over? Have the frames been fingerprinted? What crime, exactly, has been committed?
If Gordon Brown ordered the BBC to pull a piece, say on a Steve Bell cartoon, and then apologise for it, can you imagine the outrage? And the BBC is entirely dependent on the licence fee. RTE doesn’t even have that feeble excuse.
If the offence felt by Cowen is real, he should have made a complaint in a personal capacity – just as any other citizen can. If he wants to avoid dishonour on the office of the Taoiseach, he should call an election and see if the Irish electorate does him the honour of actually voting for him. Whether by design or not, all of this takes attention away from the fact that Cowen is up to €6 billion short on next month’s budget.
Non-State Irish media must not allow this Government to mask such an abuse of its power – they might be next.