Questions and Answers (TV series)


Questions and Answers (TV series)

"Questions and Answers" is a topical debate television programme in the Republic of Ireland. It is currently shown on RTÉ One at 22:35 on Mondays, running for approximately one hour. The show is presented by Dr. John Bowman.

Format

The programme, which was launched in the late 1980s, follows an almost identical format to the BBC's long-running "Question Time" programme. Each week the chairperson initiates a discussion between several prominent politicians and commentators. The discussion is led by questions asked by members of the audience. The first question will usually deal with the major political issue of the week. The final question is often a trivial or comic question.

Unlike "Question Time", which is broadcast each week from a different location and only occasionally is broadcast from BBC Television Centre, "Questions and Answers" is usually broadcast from the RTÉ television complex in Donnybrook, Dublin with only occasional broadcasts from around Ireland.

Previously taped, now live

For its first decade the programme was taped for broadcast from approximately 19:00 on the night of transmission. Since the late 1990s however the programme has been broadcast live, with phoned in or emailed in comments from viewers read out.

Major controversies and issues discussed

The Lenihan Tape Affair (1990)

:"For more information on this political scandal, see Patrick_Hillery, Former President of Ireland"

The programme has occasionally set the national news agenda. During a broadcast in 1990 the then Tánaiste and expected next President of Ireland, Brian Lenihan, badly damaged his chances of being elected. He denied involvement in an effort eight years earlier in January 1982 to pressurise the then President to refuse a parliamentary dissolution - contradicting previous statement he had made.

Lenihan had actually confirmed his involvement in the effort some months earlier in an "on-the-record" interview with a journalist Jim Duffy, as he had to numerous political colleagues privately over eight years. During the presidential election campaign he changed his story, first in an Irish Press interview, and then on "Questions and Answers". Some journalists had been told by Lenihan previously of his role in pressurising Hillery, but had been told it in an 'off the record' conversation and so could not reveal it (though one did hint it in an unsigned editorial in the "Irish Independent" during the crisis following the programme).

However following the programme, Duffy, in a backlash to pressure from Lenihan's Fianna Fáil not to reveal the information, did reveal that Lenihan's account on the programme conflicted with his pre-campaign version. The minor party in Charles Haughey's government, the Progressive Democrats, threatened to quit government and cause a general election unless either Lenihan was sacked from cabinet or an inquiry was ordered into the events of January 1982. When Lenihan refused to resign, Haughey, instead of ordering an inquiry into who had made the calls in 1982, sacked him.

Pat Doherty on the murder of Garda McCabe

Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty also used the show in 1996 to deny the involvement of the Provisional IRA in the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. Members of that group were later convicted of manslaughter and Sinn Féin have campaigned for their early release in conjunction with the Belfast Agreement.

Mitchel McLaughlin and Michael McDowell

In 2005 Sinn Féin chairman Mitchel McLaughlin told viewers that though it had been wrong for the IRA to kill Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten young children kidnapped, shot and secretly buried, the action was not a "crime". In the aftermath of his comments, he was subjected to extreme criticism within from the Irish government, from all the main parties in Dáil Éireann, the media and by the public on radio shows.

Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte, in a press release immediately afterwards commented that "Any civilised society must consider the abduction and murder of a mother of 10 children to be a crime of considerable barbarism" while Mrs McConville's son Michael said that McLaughlin, along with Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan, who had made similar comments elsewhere, "should be holding their heads in shame". [http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=39&si=1322502&issue_id=11965]

The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell, who had put the question to McLaughlin, went on to say that he considered Bobby Sands, one of the 1981 hunger strikers, a criminal, but refused to state on whether he considered IRA actions in the Anglo-Irish War to have been similarly criminal.

McLaughlin went on to lose his battle to win the parliamentary seat of Foyle in the 2005 British general election even though he had been widely tipped to win. Opponents suggested that his comments on "Questions and Answers" had dented his electoral appeal.

Presenters

* Olivia O'Leary
* John Bowman
* Brian Farrell


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