RTE: Hoax Story on Mary Harney by Phony Reporter Jennifer Maguire A 'Prank'

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The Journal captured this tweet from RTÉ personality Jennifer Maguire's account, asking about Mary Harney's resignation. The tweet was part of a prank. (Credit: The Journal, Jennifer Maguire)

Irish national TV and radio station RTÉ personality Jennifer Maguire posed as a reporter and spread a rumor that Irish health minister Mary Harney resigned Nov. 17.

While RTÉ has clarified that the incident was “a prank and is untrue,” in response, an RTÉ political correspondent, David McCullagh, filed “a formal complaint to RTÉ about the prank, which provoked considerable anger from the main political parties,” the Guardian reported.

RTÉ senior press officer Carolyn Fisher told iMediaEthics via e-mail that RTÉ hasn’t received any complaints from the incident but that the station did issue one clarification – not a correction or apology  though – over the incident.

Further, Fisher noted that RTÉ didn’t know in advance of the prank and that going forward, all “staff working on RTÉ programmes … are to use their programme logo for mics etcs, rather than the RTÉ logo, which is used by our news reporters.”

RTÉ’s statement, which was read on radio program “News at One” Nov. 17, the Irish Times reported, said (Hear an MP3 of the statement here.):

“RTÉ Television wishes to clarify that during the recording this morning of an item for the satirical RTÉ Two show Republic of Telly , a suggestion was made that Minister for Health Mary Harney was rumoured to be resigning. RTÉ wishes to clarify that this was a prank and is untrue.”

Maguire acts as a “roving reporter” for RTE Two’s “Republic of Telly,” Journal reported.

She reportedly tweeted asking “anyone hear about Mary Harney’s resignation this morning? The Dail seems to be hopping with the news.”

Then she went to Leinster House with an RTÉ camera crew and asked politicians for “their reaction to the apparent resignation” while holding an RTE microphone, according to The Journal.

If Harney’s resignation were real, it would have been significant for Irish politics.  Ireland’s Central Bank governor, Patrick Honohan, said that the Irish Republic, whose economy has plummeted, will take a “very substantial loan” from the European Union, the BBC reported.

Her resignation would have narrowed the gap between political parties within the Dail, the Guardian explained.  “Her alleged departure would have reduced the current Fianna Fáil/Green coalition’s majority to just two inside the Dáil.”

Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe criticized the hoax, the Journal reported. Donohoe represents Dublin Central.

Dáil Éireann (Dáil) is Ireland’s House of Representatives.

“The entire world is looking at Ireland today,” he is quoted as saying, “and the creation of this kind of potential instability for the sake of entertainment is irresponsible, and unnecessarily adds to what is already a terribly difficult day for our country.  Everybody needs to be responsible, in what we say and do at the moment, because image really matters to our country.”

A representative from Mary Harney’s press and communications office told iMediaEthics via e-mail that “The Minister has no comment to make on this issue and did not make any contact with RTE on the matter.”

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RTE: Hoax Story on Mary Harney by Phony Reporter Jennifer Maguire A ‘Prank’

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