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Virgin Media’s broadcasting of Gilligan documentary warrants wider examination of editorial standards – Seery Kearney

Fine Gael Senator seeks special sitting of Oireachtas Media Committee

9th September 2023 - Mary Seery-Kearney

A Fine Gael Senator is seeking a special sitting of the Oireachtas Media Committee to examine the protocols and safeguards that should be in place regarding editorial decisions in broadcasting.

Senator Mary Seery-Kearney, Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson on Equality, has written to the Chairperson of the Oireachtas Media Committee in the wake of ongoing controversy surrounding Virgin Media’s decision to broadcast a three-part documentary about convicted criminal John Gilligan.

“I have not seen part one of the programme, nor am I likely to watch any part of it as I am too angry that such an individual is given any platform at all,” Senator Seery-Kearney said. “This man was accused and acquitted of extremely serious crimes in circumstances where witness tampering and intimidation was alleged. He has actually been convicted of drug smuggling and while this programme is airing, has entered a plea bargain for drugs and weapons charges in Spain.

“It is my understanding, through correspondence I have received from Jimmy Guerin, brother of the murdered journalist, Veronica Guerin, that he will joke about violence meted out by him towards his ex-wife in the next episode. It is this cavalier portrayal of the man that is perhaps most stark.

“Veronica Guerin isn’t here to tell us about the violence he allegedly perpetrated against her prior to her murder, but it is alleged that she suffered a very violent assault at his hands. Women’s Aid have expressed their dissatisfaction with the airing of a programme where a known perpetrator of violence towards women is given a platform to trivialise such appalling actions and I must support that view. What is also concerning is that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also voiced concern how Gilligan is portrayed, stating that it is questionable if public service journalism is best served by this type of treatment of someone who has inflicted so much misery on so many,” she continued.

“Virgin Media produce excellent programmes and hold a very important role in Irish life but in this instance unfortunately, they have not displayed their usual standards of editorial professionalism. I have asked the Oireachtas Media Committee to review the standards in place, the veracity of any complaint mechanism and how such programmes could be halted from being produced, let alone aired again.

“The satisfaction of sensationalist morbid curiosity and voyeurism to see such individuals exhibited by some sectors of the public must be balanced against the public interest in securing a culture that supports an abhorrence against drug dealing and violence.

“We must ensure all editorial broadcasting mechanisms are governed by the highest standards and a thorough review clearly needs to happen now on foot of this skewed documentary.”

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