ACP statement on RTÉ’s New Year’s Eve programme

Association of Catholic Priests

statement on

RTÉ’s New Year’s Eve Programme 

Saturday 2nd January 2021


The ACP, on behalf of its member and Christians of all denominations, would like to express dismay at the decision of RTÉ to televise a very offensive portrayal of the God whom Christians worship.

The portrayal of God as a rapist is deeply offensive. In light of such provocative insensitivity, the ACP would like RTÉ to commit to a review of their polices and approaches to reporting on the Christian faith, and to make the results and relevant recommendations open to public review.


Roy Donovan 087-2225150; Gerry O’Connor 087-2320295

Tim Hazelwood 087-1337164; John Collins 086-8046020

For verification: Liamy Mac Nally, ACP Admin Sec 087-2233220

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  1. Thank you and Archbishop Eamonn Martin for your speedy and robust protest on that most offensive broadcast.

  2. Brendan Cafferty says:

    This is a shameful episode,offends not just RCs but all Christians and indeed beyond. As of now DG Dee Forbes has said they are sorry if it caused offence. This is like a player giving a kick to somebody on the pitch and saying sorry if that hurt! As of now it remains on RTE player (when that works) but it comes with a sort of a health warning. Not good enough,I bet they would not do it about Mohammed, Muslims might get outraged?

  3. Pádraig McCarthy says:

    Copy of complaint sent to RTÉ:

    I wish to lodge a complaint about a section of the New Year’s Eve Countdown Show which was broadcast on 31 December 2020 at 10.45pm. The section in question is the Waterford Whispers sketch.
    You have already received many complaints about this segment of the show, and RTÉ has already issued an apology. The RTÉ website reports at RTÉ apologises after complaints over NYE sketch ( “It is understood the clip will not be removed from the RTÉ Player as requested, but a warning will be attached to the footage to advise viewers that the material may cause offence.” This action is entirely inadequate.
    RTÉ is obliged under Section 39 (1) of the Broadcasting Act 2009 to ensure that anything which may reasonably be regarded as causing harm or offence, or as likely to promote, or incite to, crime or as tending to undermine the authority of the State, is not broadcast.
    RTÉ has an excellent historical record of presentation on religious matters – the broadcast of Mass on RTÉ News Now during the Covid-19 pandemic has been the subject of much appreciative comment.
    I find it beyond belief that those responsible for the New Year’s Eve programme, and those in RTÉ with responsibility for oversight, were not aware of the offence that it would cause.
    It may be that those responsible took the view that God is a fictional being, and that therefore nobody would be offended. This shows a disastrous lack of understanding of the importance religious faith plays in the lives of people. Did they ask themselves how their parents or grandparents would view the material?
    In the weeks before Christmas RTÉ many times presented material about Santa Claus. While he is based on the person of St Nicholas, the common presentation is very far removed from St Nicholas, and is largely fictional. Yet how would the public react if Santa Claus were treated in a way similar to that in the Waterford Whispers segment?
    Whether one regards God as a very real being (as I do) or as a symbolic representation of values of goodness and compassion and love, the segment in question was entirely inappropriate. We show respect for the Irish National Flag – the Dept of the Taoiseach has a 28-page booklet about the appropriate use of the Flag ( – The National Flag ( The flag is a human construct with deep significance for Ireland. While some might care little if it is treated with disrespect, I’m sure that there would be widespread objection if this were done publicly, and especially if this were done by RTÉ, the national broadcasting body.
    Similarly, there would be strong protest if a national monument like the Garden of Remembrance or the GPO in Dublin were shown disrespect.
    It is true that the proportion of people who say they have no religious faith has increased, but RTÉ must be aware that the vast majority of people in Ireland do acknowledge religious connection, of whatever level.
    Freedom of speech is important, but so is respect for others, which no law can enforce. We remember the tragic events around Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. The violence was appalling, but it is difficult to believe that the producers of the magazine were unaware of the offence which would be caused by their insistence on their right to publish the cartoons in question. I would be surprised if our Islamic community is not also offended by the RTÉ programme – they are of the same family of Abrahamic faiths as Jews and Christians, and have a tradition of honouring Mary and Jesus.
    Was nobody in RTÉ aware beforehand of the likelihood of the segment of the show on 31 December causing offence? Did they just not care if it offended?
    It is also deeply offensive to joke about rape. I have friends who suffered such violation. To describe the conception of Jesus as an incidence of rape is not at all consistent with the account in Chapter 1 of St Luke’s gospel. To describe it as rape displays a lamentable ignorance.
    I urge you to show respect by removing the offending segment, and to replace it not with a “warning” but with a statement of policy which reflects the true responsibilities of RTÉ in this regard.

  4. Mary Hughes says:

    I am very disappointed and outraged with the CEO and Board members of RTÉ whom approved the production their broadcast on 2nd January 2021.
    I am a Roman Catholic and involved in Ecumenical groups in the North of Ireland e.g. Church Unity, Kairos, Tres Dias. A deletion of same should take place on RTÉ Player as suggested.
    I support the Association of Catholic Priests.

  5. Joe O'Leary says:

    Listening to the conversation in Irish pubs and internet cafes I’ve sometimes heard conversations of shocking vulgarity, targeting in particular the BVM. The degradation of Irish speech, including its saturation with four-letter words, by people who consider themselves to be showing their liberation and enlightenment, is something that educators, including the national broadcasting service, should work against.

  6. John Collins says:

    I think it is worth reading the Archbishop-elect Farrell’s statement .. well balanced and worked out thought in my view.

    I was deeply disturbed by the piece on our national broadcaster, RTE, New Year’s Eve coverage, which betrayed a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of rape and of God. Beyond the naive portrayal of the Divine, what is deeply troubling and disturbing is the trivialisation of rape. A discourse which fails to respect the victims – of all ages and genders – of this most degrading of crimes has not any place in our world.

    Rape is an attack on the person in every dimension of their existence: the invasion of body and emotion, and its scars and trauma mark the person long after the physical marks have disappeared.

    Comedy and satire are essential dimensions of the discourse in a healthy, open society; however, when they take place at the expense of those who carry in their bodies and hearts the wounds of that society, we need to ask what and who is being served.

    In this time of trial and loss for our land, and personal tragedy for many families across the country, we need worthy ways to express our sorrow and to engender hope. As we have seen, the arts and artists have a key role to play and contribution to make.

    It is to be hoped that they find ways which permit both critical voices to be heard, and gentle light to shine.

    +Archbishop Elect Dermot Farrell

  7. Iggy O'Donovan says:

    I have followed with interest the debate which has taken place in the aftermath of the “God” sketch on RTÉ. I myself believe it was in poor taste but I am happy to accept the broadcasters apology, and leave it at that. One “Charlie Hebdo” episode is quite enough.

    I would however make the following observation. For most of the time in Irish public discourse God and theology are optional extras but every now and then an incident occurs and the Lord suddenly finds himself/herself playing centre field. Take for example the debate that occurred some years ago after President McAleese had received Communion in Christ Church Cathedral. In the weeks following the event the entire country fell to discussing eucharistic theology with abandon.

    Early on, the word “transubstantiation” was dropped into the debate where it was brandished by zealots like a crusader’s sword whenever orthodoxy was deemed to be under attack. Normally most people could not care less about this but suddenly the air crackled with theological energy.

    Similarly today following the RTÉ satirical sketch the word blasphemy is suddenly in popular usage. I believe reconciliation should be religion’s characteristic contribution to human wellbeing and it is truly blasphemous to make it the cause of strife.

    The late Rabbi Jonathan Sachs in a memorable passage some years ago wrote: “A plural society tests to the limit our ability to see God in religious forms that are not our own. Religions are at their best in constructing communities of shared vision, societies of the like-minded. They are at their worst in tolerating diversity”.

    So while I understand the hurt and even anger felt by many believers at the RTÉ jibe I believe in the freedom of expression even more. I am not here making a concession to a secularised world, rather I believe respect for freedom lies at the very heart of the gospel I profess.

    Following the outrage in Paris some years ago I was proud to be numbered among those who proclaimed “je suis Charlie Hebdo”. I am happy to repeat it here.

  8. Sean+O'Conaill says:

    Jan 5th, 2021, just passed was the tenth anniversary of the launch of ‘Share the Good News’, Ireland’s first national catechetical directory.

    “It is a time bomb thrown into the catechetical establishment and indeed into the religious education establishment.” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the launch.

    “Another example, (i.e. of the ineffectuality of the Irish Bishops Conference) going back to the Bishops’ Conference, we produced this National Catechetical directory – Sharing the Good News – where is it?’
    (Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, The Irish Times, 22nd April 2019)

    Just to remind everyone, with Share the Good News it was ADULT FAITH FORMATION AND CATECHESIS in parishes that was to become the lynchpin of the new system, and by 2021 – this year – that was to be in place everywhere on the island.

    Instead we are all required to ‘get outraged’ by yet another reminder that as far as ‘Crass Ireland’ is concerned our church is still on Craggy Island.

    Who is shouting ‘outrage’ at the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference for keeping us there?

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