Tuesday 22 January 2019

Michael O'Doherty: If you want to campaign, Dana, then do the right thing and get off the telly

THE advantage of having two different names is that you can project two personas. So on the one hand, we have Dana -- the crooner from Derry who won the Eurovision as a loveable 19-year-old, and continues to charm the nation as the sweet, motherly judge of RTE's All Ireland Talent Show, in which she mentors sweet Irish acts much like herself.

And when she does express a strong opinion, it's simply to chastise the nastiness of other judges who might dare to suggest that an act wasn't their cup of tea.


There is another side to Dana, however, which goes by the name Dana Rosemary Scallan. And Rosemary, a former MEP for Connacht-Ulster, is an altogether more formidable creature.

She is a central figure in the pro-life Ireland United For Life Alliance, which at the weekend held a press conference imploring the Irish public to vote next Friday only for candidates who unequivocally opposed any form of abortion in Ireland.


The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland's guidelines on electoral coverage, which RTE presumably subscribes to, states that: "Endorsements of candidates, political parties or the policies of the aforementioned by broadcasters, including its presenters, are not permitted."

When George Lee ran for the Dail, he resigned from RTE. When Fintan O'Toole was merely at the planning stages of Democracy Now, he stepped down as Deputy Editor of the Irish Times. They both understood that people standing for a political ideal should not be able to gain from their broadcasting profile while doing so.

So forgive my confusion, but isn't supporting a specific policy exactly what Dana is doing? While no-one would claim that the All Ireland Talent Show is a political show, it does afford Dana a high profile, which she is using to spread her political message.

Which begs the question -- why are RTE allowing Dana to maintain her profile every Sunday night on AITS? Whatever people may think of Dana's beliefs isn't really the issue -- she is entitled to them. What isn't open to opinion is that a TV presenter, with a public profile courtesy of TV licence payers' money, shouldn't be fronting a political campaign.


And the fact that she's asking people to vote in the forthcoming election -- the most important in modern times -- based on just one policy, which has nothing to do with our economic survival, isn't just naive. It's utterly barmy.

Dana, please decide whether you want to be a politician or a TV presenter. And RTE, stop letting her be both.

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