Protest against homophobia to take place in Dublin amid RTÉ controversy

Rory O'Neill, aka Panti Bliss, appearing on the Saturday Night Show

A protest against homophobia is taking place in Dublin this afternoon following controversy over comments made by the gay rights activist Rory O'Neill on RTÉ's 'Saturday Night Show' last month.

The State broadcaster is reported to have paid out some €85,000 in compensation in its defamation settlement over the comments made by Mr O'Neill, who performs as drag queen Panti.

Journalist John Waters told the Sunday Business Post he will receive €40,000 while a further sum is to be paid to five members of the Catholic lobby group, The Iona Institute.

The settlement was made following legal correspondence from the parties named in the January 11 interview with Brendan O'Connor, during which O'Neill discussed homophobia and same-sex marriage. It is understood that RTÉ bosses felt the broadcast would have been almost impossible to defend in any potential defamation action and moved quickly to settle the complaint.

Today's protest will begin at 2pm at the Gaiety Theatre and has been organised by advocacy group LGBT Noise.

"At the root of it this is about homophobia, but it is also about a public service broadcaster, having terms dictated now that preclude us in the runup to a referendum on marriage equality from actually using the term homophobia," said spokesperson Max Krzyzanowski.

The Saturday Night Show last week broadcast an apology to those alleged to have been defamed in the original interview, and last night featured a debate on homophobia.

RTÉ is understood to have received over 1,000 complaints from members of the public in relation to the broadcast. The vast majority are believed to express concern at the apology issued by the station.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte on Friday said he expects RTÉ to allow a full and free exchange of opinions on matters of public interest, after the matter was raised in the Oireachtas.

The Government has agreed to hold a referendum on civil marriage for same-sex couples in the first half of 2015, following a recommendation by the Constitutional Convention that the Constitution be changed to allow it.

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