Friday, 29 May 2015

Remembering Bill O'Herlihy: 'The Inquiry into the Programme on Moneylending'

Bill O'Herlihy is remembered first and foremost as a sports broadcaster but a tribunal report in the Official Publications collection in the Library documents his challenging earlier career as a reporter for the 7 Days programme, one of the first investigative journalistic formats produced by RTE.

In November 1969 Bill O'Herlihy, as chief reporter, investigated the operation of moneylenders in the Dublin area. The programme was the first of its kind to use hidden cameras and more controversially an acted insert to give it dramatic and narrative structure. There were a number of contentious statements made within the programme and such was the impact and the ensuing controversy, that the Fianna Fáil government ordered a public inquiry into the 7 Days production.

 These are Bill O'Herlihy's concluding remarks at the end of the
 programme, reproduced in the Inquiry Report. The claim of
'as many as 500 moneylenders'
 was considered inaccurate by the Inquiry Team.
The inquiry lasted 52 days with Bill O'Herlily being cross examined for six of these. All in all the Inquiry took evidence from 153 witnesses.

The subsequent report Inquiry into the Programme on Illegal Moneylending was critical of the standards of the programme as summarised in the Irish Times article below (remarkably the Irish Times printed the entire report).

The negative fallout meant that Bill O'Herlily left Current Affairs and was offered a position in the Sport Department in RTE where he was to largely remain for the rest of his journalistic career.

Much  commentary since has portrayed the Inquiry as a means of undermining RTÉ current affairs and the 7 Days programme in particular.

'The Inquiry into the Programme on Illegal Moneylending broadcast on television by Radio Telefís Éireann on 11th November, 1969' is available for consultation in the Library as part of the Official Publications collection.
Click to see entire article

Hugo Kelly
Law, Official Publications & EDC Librarian

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