Shooting Down Prime Time



RTÉ Prime Time reporter Barry Cummins in Wicklow during last night’s show


Last night Prime Time on RTÊ One tackled the issue of gun ownership in Ireland (ahead of proposed restrictive legislation).

Lots of scary synth music then.

But what did the legally held firearm-owning community think?

Was it fair and, indeed, balanced?

Marksman Mark Dennehy writes:

Where do you start? Well, actually, there’s a good place to start and that’s by spending 40 seconds passing on the one bit of information that should have been at the top of the report but was never mentioned, which is this:

The most important thing to remember is that the law keeps the public safe. The Firearms Act prohibits the Gardai from giving out firearms licences if doing so would create a threat to the public or the peace and if that threat arises after the licence is given out, the Firearms Act empowers them to revoke the licence instantly.

Firearms licence owners are vetted thoroughly by the Gardai and licences are only issued where there’s a valid reason for having the firearm, where the applicant has a safe place to use it and a secure place to store it, and these things are checked by the Gardai both during the application and at random inspections after the licence is issued.

While there are problems with the Firearms Act, they’re problems that only affect sportspeople, they don’t compromise public safety and can be readily resolved by the Oireachtas in a very straightforward manner if they so wished.

With that most important bit out of the way, last night’s report has already had a half-dozen formal complaints submitted to RTÉ on the grounds of biased coverage, so what are the specific complaints? Well…

– They never explained to the public the current state of the firearms licencing laws, never mentioned the basic requirements for getting a firearms licence or the powers granted to the Gardai (and the legal duties) to ensure that firearms licencing never compromises public safety. And they cut off the only interviewee who tried to explain them.

– They never spoke at all about the actual proposals which have been made by the Gardai. So nobody ever learned that those proposals have nothing to do with public safety. There’s no proposal to increase the minimum mandatory security levels required, there’s no proposal to introduce new criminal offences to tackle gun crime or to increase penalties for existing offences, nothing like that. The proposals explicitly and solely deal with licencing of firearms for sport.

– They never raised any questions over the garda statistics and even let [Fianna Fáil] Deputy [Finian] McGrath bring them up without comment even though both Finian and Miriam were told about the problems in those statistics last week (and every broadsheet reader was as well). Miriam even hushed Egan when he protested that the statistics were wrong, saying that he would “bamboozle them with figures”.

– They spent money on sinister sounding music and graphics when showing target shooting, but never once mentioned their 165-year-long safety record.

– They showed lots of airsoft replicas as though they were licenced firearms (which they’re not, they’re toys) and lots more illegal firearms that nobody can legally licence as though they were what the proposals were about (including footage of submachine guns that were confiscated in a drugs bust a fortnight ago in Cork, guns that aren’t legal to own anywhere in the EU).

– They said the official scheduled inspection of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice to the range at Nurney was a happenstance casual visit and they never asked Deputy McGrath why he failed to attend that scheduled inspection as a member of the Committee (and they also quietly skipped over how Finian didn’t go to the Garda HQ presentation that day as well, and how he didn’t show up for all the committee hearings on the proposals)

– They never gave any context for the figures they presented. So they said there are about 200,000 firearms in Ireland, but they didn’t point out that this is the fourth lowest firearms ownership rate in the EU and that it’d be lower in reality because the term “Firearm” in Ireland includes many items that aren’t firearms in the EU. And they said there were approximately 1,800 licenced handguns in Ireland but never mentioned that that’s a 30% reduction in handgun ownership compared to the ownership levels we had before the Gardai and Minister sidestepped the Dail to bring in an illegal de facto ban on them in ’72.

– They kept saying that firearms stolen from licenced firearms owners were used in crime, but never mention how we’ve been asking for proof of that in the Dáil for a decade and have never heard of even one confirmed case of a stolen handgun being used in crime.

– They talked about an “Olympic Standard” pistol. I’m an ISSF-accredited judge, and I’ve been involved in Olympic shooting for 22 years now and there is no such animal. And the proposals that are being discussed would ban the entry level pistols beginners use in Olympic pistol shooting.

– They portrayed deer stalking in a very negative light, as if it was a couple of yobbos shooting deer for a bit of craic. They never mentioned the reasons for deer stalking. They said nothing about entire herds of deer starving to death over winter because of overpopulation (deer have no predators in Ireland). They didn’t mention the care the hunters take of the herd outside the shooting seasons. They barely mentioned the legislation governing it. And not one mention was made of the facts that the hunters are the eyes and ears of the National Wildlife and Parks Service against poachers, or of how hunters are the group who do more for conservation in this state than anyone else. It might not be pleasant viewing for people, but it’s a necessary thing. And why it was shown at all only for Prime Time to then say “oh, the proposals don’t affect these guns” is downright questionable.

– They brought up mass shootings like Dunblane without any details or context, like the many issues that the Cullen Inquiry raised with the Scottish Police in Dunblane and how the law that existed in Scotland at the time gave the police all the necessary powers to preempt Dunblane, but they ignored a written report from Detective Sergeant Paul Hughes where he said:

“I am firmly of the opinion that Hamilton is an unsavoury character and an unstable personality. … I would contend that Mr. Hamilton will be a risk to children whenever he has access to them and that he appears to me to be an unsuitable person to possess a firearms
certificate in view of the number of occasions he has come to the  adverse attention of the police and his apparent instability. ….respectfully request that serious consideration is given to withdrawing this man’s firearms certificate as a precautionary measure as it is my opinion that he is a scheming, devious and deceitful individual who is not to be trusted.”

– And at no point in the report did they ever give the context for the proposals – that is, the several million euro bill the Gardai are facing in court costs for over six hundred and fifty lost court cases regarding licencing; the several supreme court judgement which have stated that the Gardai and Minister acted unlawfully in regard to firearms licencing for over thirty years; and the recent development which has seen District Court case appeals being permitted to seek costs from the Gardai in the event of an applicant being successful in appealing a licencing decision.

In short then, they didn’t tell anyone what the whole story was about, they never gave context for anything, they presented the whole thing using sound and lighting cues so it all appeared very sinister and scary, and they completely skipped over the actual investigative journalism bit.

As that might have brought up a story about error-ridden garda statistics, large unnecessary court bills being footed by the taxpayer, and an attempt to rewrite the law to get around the awkwardness of having to present a case in public when a decision is challanged.

A terrible waste of airtime on a lost opportunity.

Watch here

77 thoughts on “Shooting Down Prime Time

  1. ger fitz

    Good old Finian McGrath – wasn’t he associated with a hunt saboteur group? He sounds desperate for any vote scraps come the GE. Pity he left Labour – I believe his country colleagues are taking the flak for him.

  2. Bacchus

    last night’s report has already had a half-dozen formal complaints submitted to RTE on the grounds of biased coverage

    All submitted by Mark D no doubt. Nobody cares mark… nobody cares.

    1. Mark Dennehy

      No, mine was just one.
      And even Finian is complaining about the number of complaints this morning, though he’s doing so with his usual level of… civility:

      (ps. Seriously, I get that most people don’t care. That’s a good thing. Honestly. Just don’t ban the whole sport while you’re not caring, okay? Some of us really don’t like soccer or golf or any of the other choices we’d be left with)

      1. Bacchus

        Oh don’t get me wrong Mark, I don’t want your sport banned or curbed but I am just bored with the amount of coverage on here…

      2. scottser

        i’d just like to say that clay shooting is the probably the best craic you can have sober.
        and also, my missis is a better shot than me.

          1. scottser

            she’s never voted, ever. so i will, twice.
            seriously tho, go shooting in a mixed crowd, you’ll be amazed and a little wary of how easy the wimmins take to shotguns..

      3. phil

        I grew up on a farm , we used to hire a professional to shoot crows , he wouldnt have described himself as a ‘sportsman’ , I would argue he does have a right to own a weapon and be licensed. Im just not sure about encouraging gun ownership as some sort of quasi ‘sport’.

        Finian is a TD in my local area , I share his concerns. Ive seen some of the chat on Social Media connected to gun owners. Some of the bile and petulant abusive rants these gun owners spout when they feel someone is shining a light on their patch makes me most concerned about Garda vetting when approving licenses.

        There is no harm in reviewing the law.

        1. ger fitz

          Reviewing the law that was agreed after several year’s round table discussions following the Barr Tribunal report and implemented in 2009?
          The same law the Gardaí implemented the parts they liked and didn’t implement the parts they didn’t like?
          The same law whose patchy application by Gardaí forced over 600 licensed firearms holders to go to court? With 93% success?
          The same law gardai propose to amend with inflated statistics, withheld data and scare tactics, despite falling gun crime, firearms seizures and gun thefts?

        2. Mark Dennehy

          I hate to sound snooty, but shooting crows on a farm is not the best model to have in mind when wondering if this is a sport or not:

          And I’m wondering about Finian’s concerns to be blunt. He didn’t attend all of the Oireachtas Joint Committee hearings on these proposals, he didn’t go to the presentation by the Gardai at Garda HQ or the presentation by target shooters at the range at Nurney, and every comment he makes on twitter is basically trolling, hoping that someone will say something nasty to him so he can then go to The Journal and complain that the gun lobby is very powerful and out to get him.

          A powerful gun lobby. Yeah, right. Our ranges are converted hayshed and cellars in the middle of nowhere, we have no funding and the most draconian legislation in Europe governing our sport. Those people you saw testifying at the Committee hearings were all there having taken a day’s holidays from their day jobs to come in and explain their sport and put their case forward (and Finian didn’t think that was worth showing up for, but he was happy to demand we come in again later on at his convenience on our holiday time to say the same thing over again). What part of any of that sounds like we have a “lobby”?

      1. jeremy kyle

        Beretta to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

      1. Bacchus

        I never said you didn’t care but I suspect you might be exaggerating about your families and your grasp of grammar.

  3. Colin

    Good man Mark Dennehy. Was infuriated watching it last night. I have a passing interest in the sport and a lot of friends directly involved. You’ll never meet a nicer and sounder group of people as they don’t tolerate numptys and idiots.

    I genuinely feel sorry for the group about the correlation RTE portrayed between criminality and themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  4. Mr. T.

    PrimeTime pretending to be out there chasing up important issues and exposing serious issues but really just focusing on non events and diversions instead of ACTUALLY exposing real corruption and criminality within our government departments.

  5. Edwardzzzz

    It was the most amateurish and loaded piece of reporting I’ve ever seen. Totally biased.

  6. rotide

    Just a slight pedant note. Rte have a blanket music licence and a graphics department that provide graphics for their programming. So they didn’t actually spend money on these things really, they just used music and graphics that you didn’t like (and i have sympathy with that)

    1. Mark Dennehy

      Well, not so much, they dialled down the lighting and used some fairly blatent jump edits. Quick example:

      Up top, the original broadcast image. Down below, a horribly amateur effort at raising the background lighting so that you can now see that what they’re showing you is not actually a real licenced firearm, but an airsoft toy being sold as a toy out of a shop on Mary Street or somewhere like that.

      I’d post the soundtrack, but (a) that’d be annoying and (b) I don’t know how :D
      But if you listen to it at that point, they’re playing their equivalant to “dun dun dunnnnnnn”.

      And there’s stuff like that throughout the report. All low level, all consistent, all designed to frame what you’re thinking. In other words, completely biased.

      If they’d wanted a fair report, why didn’t they lead with the proposals, instead of never mentioning what they actually are?

      1. rotide

        Yes, I have sympathy with your point. It was obviously directed and edited with an agenda (nearly every documentary/current affairs piece is to an extent, although this seems quite blatant).

        My point is the cost would be the same regardless of the editorial position.

      2. smoothlikemurphys

        To be honest, even if PT had shown the box in all it’s glory, and explained to people about ‘1 Joule’, it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference – realistic looking gun is realistic, and not everybody (mostly nobody) gives a fiddlers what the power discharge is.

        If you (target shooters) go down the route of trying to argue on those metrics (as you have often done on here), then the actual problem you have is a marketing one.

        I respect your sport, and think it’s crazy that it get’s caught up in doomsday style gangland TV pieces, but I’d prefer to see gun ownership GREATLY reduced, along with even stricter laws around licensing – your challenge would then be to separate the sport side from the ‘shotgun in the hot press’ side entirely.

        1. Mark Dennehy

          …except that the toy they were showing is meant to look like a pistol you can’t legally licence here in Ireland.

          The point wasn’t “our sport is safe” because if 165 years of it running in Ireland safely isn’t enough to convince you of that, then you’re not interested in talking at all.

          The point was “Prime Time played with framing, lighting and sound cues to deliberately make us look sinister and that violates Section 39(1)(a) and 39(1)(b) of the 2009 Broadcasting Act”.

          1. Paolo

            It’s all a big conspiracy against the poor gun nuts. Everyone is out to get them.

            I walk my dogs in the Dublin hills and regularly find
            – pieces of butchered deer carcass that had obviously been poached
            – full carcasses of deer that have been shot and left to die

            I even found, on one occasion, a live deer that had been shot (with a rifle) and left to die in a ditch where it was being harassed by dogs.

            The only people who should be managing the deer population are park rangers with high powered rifles. Deer stalkers, doing it for gratification, should not be allowed. They don’t “take care” of the herd and there is zero oversight of them.

          2. Mark Dennehy

            You know poaching’s illegal and nothing to do with hunters, right?
            That the poachers who have been caught are usually caught because hunters find them and inform the NWPS?
            That the Garda Commissioner recently publicly endorsed the hunting community for this?

          3. smoothlikemurphys

            “The point wasn’t “our sport is safe” because if 165 years of it running in Ireland safely isn’t enough to convince you of that, then you’re not interested in talking at all.”

            That’s not what I’m saying, I just alluded to your previous posts on Broadsheet whereby you explain something along the lines of specific guns only having enough power to hurt you if fired directly into your eye – I’m paraphrasing here.

            You might think I’m not interested in talking details, and you’d be right – In my opinion, anyone that has to resort to such long winded diatribes in an effort to justify themselves is either a) Wrong, or b) Fighting the wrong battle.

            As I said, I’d prefer if people had to jump through 10x as many hoops to buy a gun, and if that means that your sport (and I’m not using that in a patronising way) needs to find a way to separate target shooting guns from general hunting and killing guns, then that’s your challenge

          4. Mark Dennehy

            Those specific guns aren’t guns though smooth, they’re airsoft toys. Hence the 1 joule limit (and I didn’t say it wouldn’t hurt :D I said that the tests showed you wouldn’t lose the eyeball because of it. I imagine it’d hurt like … a really hurty thing? I’m not good with analogies).

            This is kindof the problem – people don’t know what these things are (which is fine, they aren’t a part of everyone’s life); but some TDs and media people exploit this for scaremongering for their own reasons (and that’s definitely not fine).

            And the idea that we have to “throw hunters under the bus”, so to speak, that’s not on. Get rid of hunting and within a decade, you’ll have lost several species of animal and bird, you’ll have tens of thousands of deer starving to death all over the country, and it won’t have done a single thing to benefit public safety.

          5. Bacchus

            Mark, as soon as you start clapping hunters on the back you will lose support, a lot of people, myself included, despise those pathetic macho pric&s and would take their toys away tomorrow. If I were you I’d avoid any connection between your sport and what they try to call a sport.

          6. ger fitz

            I’m a hunter and sometimes my meat doesn’t come in packaging. Where do you get yours/ Not that I give a poo for anything about you since your post. Stay in your concrete-slabbed utopia.
            Never saw an animal that could live on concrete, so the like of you do more harm passively than every hunter on the planet possibly could.

        2. ger fitz

          @Bacchus The advantage of being a macho pric& like me is that I can walk down the street and snivelling cowards get out of my way. Maybe they bury their insecurity in the bottom of a glass. Better than beating the wife, I suppose.

          1. smoothlikemurphys

            “Better than beating the wife, I suppose.”

            Why beat the wife when you can take pot shots at deer from 200 yards, eh? Quite the hardy man indeed.

        3. ger fitz

          I don’t need a gun to bolster my ego. I actually like to help people – like at Christmas in my local Aldi when the missus told me a guy was dipping into a lady’s purse. I’m not a garda, but I challenged him and he ran. What would you have done? Or in the 3 hostage situations I have been in, where I had to consider the safety of my staff and the public? I had no gun in any of those or half a dozen comparable situations, where everybody else froze. I live in real time, in the real world, not some fantasy – that’s the difference.

  7. Soundings

    Tuned in for five minutes. Heard Miriam refer to the deceased brother of an interviewee as a “sister”, heard her badly rehearsed and researched questions which she didn’t bother following up, to the advantage of both pro- and anti-gun. Her hair was nice. Tuned out.

  8. General Apathy

    Same ole Prime Time…

    They should stick to what they know best – nutters shouting at each other.

  9. Mark Dennehy

    And this just in from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice:

    Today the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality issued the following statement.
    The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality has this morning agreed to seek a range of academic perspectives as part of its on-going consideration of a recent review of firearms licencing issues. The Committee hopes that the input of experts, with independent analysis of the current trends in Ireland and optimum policy in other jurisdictions, will assist the Committee as it considers this complex policy area.
    The Committee has also agreed to write to the Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald to ask her to consider requesting the Garda Inspectorate to independently assess the procedures and practices related to firearms licencing and the proposals contained in the Firearms Review, which was published by the Joint Department of Justice and Equality / Garda Síochána Working Group last November.
    Following a call for public submissions, the Committee hosted a series of meetings in December and January with both the Working Group and representatives of shooting clubs with concerns around the Review’s findings. A delegation from the Committee also visited Garda HQ and Nurney Firing Range last month to hear at first hand the differing perspectives on the issue.
    Committee Chairman David Stanton TD says: ““Having issued a call for public submissions and hosted valuable discussions on the Review’s findings in Leinster House, the Committee understands that there are differing perspectives on the holding of firearms and firearm licensing. The visits to Garda HQ and the Nurney firing range last month– and the detailed briefings received – helped to further inform the Committee in shaping our own response to the Review.
    “This an extraordinarily complex and emotive policy area, and the Committee remains intent on charting a balanced and proportionate course as it weighs up the strong arguments on both sides. We are acutely conscious that any policy decisions taken in this area must be underpinned by reliable statistics and an understanding of best practice in other jurisdictions. With this in mind, the Committee is now seeking advice from leading academics working in the area, and may decide to invite them to engage with the Committee at future public hearings. The Committee also agreed to ask Minister Fitzgerald to give consideration to engaging the Garda Inspectorate to conduct an independent analysis of the issues at hand.”

    1. scottser

      ya can’t help but think that if a few TDs owned shooting ranges then you wouldn’t see this type of coverage.
      mark, i imagine that members of the Gardai and Defence Forces are participants in the sport as private competitors? are they invited to submit opinion on best practice, policy or new legislation?

    2. ger fitz

      Finian Mcgrath should stand down from the Justice Committee.

      Oh, wait I forgot – he’s going to have his arse handed to him in the gen election. Just as well, because FG/Lab are not pleased with him riling 144,000 rural voters to get half-a-dozen votes for himself.

  10. Truth in the News

    Guns are needed in the farming sector to control vermin, is McGrath
    going to trot around the country as a political vermin assain to control
    Foxes, Grey Crows, Rabbits, and Dogs chasing sheep and killing them
    he need to get real and so do the Garda Siochana.
    Do they want the place over taken with vermin…..seems so.

  11. Parochial Central

    @Mark Dennehy Careful now, or you’ll come across as being as boring and opinionated as Mark Malone…

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