Motion calling for TV licence to be scrapped immediately is defeated in Dáil

Sinn Féin wants the TV licence to be replaced with direct Exchequer funding to support public service media

A Sinn Féin motion calling for the TV licence to be scrapped immediately along with the introduction of a legal amnesty from prosecution for those who have not paid the fee has been defeated in the Dáil.

The Government put forward a countermotion, which passed by 78 votes to 56 on Wednesday night.

Sinn Féin wants the TV licence to be replaced with direct Exchequer funding to support public service media and broadcasting.

Speaking earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he would have a “genuine concern” about a future Government being led by somebody who is “suing RTÉ” deciding how much Exchequer funding the broadcaster would receive.


Mr Varadkar was referring to Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald’s High Court proceedings against RTÉ for alleged defamation.

The Fine Gael leader also said the Government would make a decision on the future of the TV licence in the coming weeks or months but that the fee would continue to apply for “at least the entirety of this year”.

Mr Varadkar said he would personally favour an Exchequer funded model to finance public service broadcasting.

However, he added: “I would have a genuine concern about an Exchequer funded model that, not this Government, but perhaps a future Government, led by the Deputy opposite [Mary Lou McDonald] would have full control over the funding of RTÉ and public service broadcasting.

“There’s a gross conflict of interest from somebody who is suing RTÉ, deciding how much funding RTÉ would get. That would be a big problem, I think, for our democracy.”

Mr Varadkar said this was “the kind of thing” beginning to happen in the United States and other countries, adding “I definitely would not want that to be the case in our State”.

Ms McDonald’s claim is understood to relate to a discussion on Morning Ireland in February 2022 during which reference was made to the treatment of women who were sexually assaulted by members of Sinn Féin and the IRA.

Separately, Mr Varadkar said it was very clear there are “significant problems” in RTÉ. He said there had been a culture of poor governance “when decisions were not made or made properly”, as well as a culture of arrogance “from some of the senior people who were in charge of that organisation”.

“We also see a wider culture of entitlement, the belief that the revenue from the licence fee should belong to RTÉ either entirely or for the greatest part,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said those who hadn’t yet come before the Oireachtas Media Committee “should” and wanted to make that “very clear”.

Minister for Media Catherine Martin said on Tuesday that serious consideration needed to be given to the option of a “direct Exchequer funding model” to replace the current TV licence fee system.

Ms Martin said that a taxation based system was “fairer, more effective, more stable and better future-proofed”.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times