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Sunday 24 September 2017

'He should be fired' - Coughlan rounds on Hook over remarks on rape as sponsors pull out

Presenter George Hook apologised. Photo: David Conachy
Presenter George Hook apologised. Photo: David Conachy
Mary Coughlan. Photo: Tony Gavin

Singer Mary Coughlan has called for George Hook to be fired from his presenting role after she walked out of an interview with Newstalk in the wake of his controversial comments about rape.

Ms Coughlan was appearing on The Hard Shoulder with Ivan Yates last night, on which she was expected to talk about her upcoming tour.

However, she cut the interview short, telling Mr Yates she was unhappy with the comments and claiming it "wasn't the first time" Hook had made inflammatory remarks about women.

Speaking to the Herald last night, Ms Coughlan said: "The comments have absolutely no respect for the victims of abuse in this country. His comments were completely disparaging and there are even some comments in his book which I find similar.

"He should be fired, for God's sake."

Ms Coughlan added that she was "surprised" he had not yet been removed, even though a top hotel group withdrew their sponsorship of Mr Hook's show on Newstalk.

Dalata Hotel Group, which owns Clayton Hotels, terminated its contract with the station yesterday, which is believed to have cost Newstalk a six-figure sponsorship deal.

Ms Coughlan said "it is only the start" after his "absolutely disgusting comments."

"I was sitting there before I went on and I was very nervous doing it, but I had the support of my kids behind me. The kids, including my three daughters, are extremely proud of me for doing this," she said.

Hurtful

"I just felt out of respect for the many, many women who have been sexually abused or assaulted in this country, it had to be done.

"It's nothing against Ivan Yates and it's nothing personal."

The Dalata Group, Ireland's largest hotel operator, said it could not "support any radio station that allows inappropriate and hurtful comments to be made".

The sponsorship for Hook's High Noon show is believed to cost in the region of €250,000, although Dalata would probably have negotiated a discount on this rate.

Meanwhile, Mastercard last night condemned the comments, describing them as "both disappointing and dangerous".

"We have been assured by Newstalk that these comments are the misguided opinions of an individual and do not represent the views of the broadcaster as a whole," the firm said.

"We would urge Newstalk to take the appropriate actions to ensure that all of the listeners to this important channel understand that any comments that degrade women will not be tolerated."

Yesterday, Hook issued an unreserved apology on air.

"I made comments about rape on the programme that was totally inappropriate and unacceptable and I should never have made them," he said.

"I realise that those comments caused widespread hurt and offence, and for this too I am truly sorry. I would particularly like to apologise to all victims of rape, their families, the organisations who work day and night to reduce the stigma around rape, and also for those who try and increase reporting of crimes involving sexual violence against men and women."

It is not the first time the presenter's controversial opinions have outraged rape victims. In 2015, he questioned the idea of "implied consent" while discussing the case of Niamh Ni Domhnall, who was raped by her then boyfriend Magnus Meyer Hustveit while she slept.

But, according to station insiders, the latest scandal is by far the most severe as cancelled sponsorship deals can "be fatal" for radio programmes.

"A lot of the time these problems blow over, but this could be a harder storm to weather," a source said.

Yesterday, the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) issued a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland over Hook's comments on sexual violence and "personal responsibility". The comments have been the focus of criticism from survivors of sexual violence and by groups such as the Rape Crisis Centre.

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