By Cate McCurry, PA
RTÉ has issued an apology over a sketch that ran as part of the station’s NYE Countdown Show.
The broadcaster said it acknowledged that viewers were offended by the clip, which received 600 complaints and faced criticism from Archbishop Eamon Martin, who said it was “deeply offensive and blasphemous”.
The programme, broadcast on RTÉ One on New Year’s Eve, featured a sketch by satirical group Waterford Whispers News.
In it, a mocked-up news report featuring former RTÉ news presenter Aengus Mac Grianna claimed that God had been arrested over “sexual harassment scandals”.
1. I am shocked that producer/editor of 'NYE Countdown Show' @RTE @RTEOne didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking 'news report' accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.
— Eamon Martin (@ArchbishopEamon) January 1, 2021
In a statement, a spokesman for the broadcaster said: “RTÉ recognises that matters which can cause offence naturally differ from person to person, within comedy and satire in particular.
“Having reviewed the feedback and complaints received up to this point, RTÉ wishes to apologise to those who were offended by the segment.
“The formal complaints received by RTÉ are being entered into our complaints system and will be responded to in accordance with the relevant statutory process.”
Mr Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, denounced the sketch in a statement on Twitter on Friday.
He described the sketch as “deeply offensive”, “outrageous” and “insulting to all Catholics and Christians”.
He wrote: “I am shocked that producer/editor of ‘NYE Countdown Show’ @RTE @RTEOne didn’t realise how deeply offensive was a mocking ‘news report’ accusing God of rape & reporting his imprisonment. This outrageous clip should be removed immediately & denounced by all people of goodwill.
“To broadcast such a deeply offensive and blasphemous clip about God & Our Blessed Mother Mary during the Christmas season on ‘NYE Countdown Show’ on @RTE, @RTEOne & on Eve of the Solemn Feast of Mary, Mother of God is insulting to all Catholics and Christians.”
The archbishop tagged the RTÉ director general Dee Forbes in his tweets.
In the sketch, Mr Mac Grianna reads a mocked-up news story in which God has been arrested over “ongoing sexual harassment scandals”.
He said: “The five-billion year-old stood accused of forcing himself on a young middle-eastern migrant and allegedly impregnating her against her will, before being sentenced to two years in prison, with the last 24 months suspended.”
A man dressed as God is seen being led away by a member of the gardai, and is heard shouting: “It was 2,000 years ago.”
The sketch ran as part of RTÉ’s NYE Countdown show, which was presented by Kathryn Thomas and comedian Deirdre O’Kane.
Meanwhile, a Wexford Councillor says RTE's apology over the mock news report, doesn't go far enough.
Councillor Michael Sheehan of New Ross says while he welcomes the apology, the skit should be removed from the RTE player.
The programme also featured a performance from Riverdance.
Guests included musicians Sharon Shannon and Jerry Fish, comedian Pat Shortt and GAA correspondent Marty Morrisey.