RTÉ remove programme with Irish naval employee in blackface – doesn't explain decision to broadcast

RTÉ has removed from its player an episode of Nationwide that featured a photograph of a naval employee in blackface at a fancy dress event.

The network has taken the episode down, and said that its inclusion "was due to a regrettable oversight".

On Wednesday, RTÉ broadcast the second episode of a two-part Nationwide special on the 75th anniversary of the Irish Navy.

The episode focused on the LÉ James Joyce, an Irish naval vessel that has been in operation since 2014.

Presenter Donal Byrne joined the ship’s 50-person crew on a patrol of Ireland’s south and west coasts and was told by a crew member that while at sea, members of the navy need things like barbecues and quiz nights to maintain morale.

While the officer explained the crew also occasionally engage in fancy dress, a picture was shown on screen. It showed the crew in costume, with one member in blackface, wearing an outfit similar to the Jamaican bobsledders in Disney’s Cool Runnings film.

A screenshot from Wednesday's episode of Nationwide, showing a fancy dress event on Irish naval vessel the LÉ James Joyce with one attendee in blackface

Elsewhere in the same episode, a crew member told presenter Byrne, “The navy is your second family. It is a family, especially when you're on a ship. You're living in such close proximity to everyone – you have to look out for each other.”

Shortly after The Ditch questioned RTÉ on the programme, it was removed from the RTÉ Player.

"The photo in question should not have been included in last night's Nationwide programme and was due to a regrettable oversight," said an RTÉ spokesperson.

Though the spokesperson said an updated version of the programme is available on the RTÉ Player, this wasn't the case at time of publication.

An Irish Defences Forces spokesperson said: "Óglaigh na hÉireann developed its first ever Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Statement and Action Plan in 2016, which articulated Defence Forces commitment to diversity and inclusion across various strands of the organisation.

"Any incident that is not in line with the values of our organisation or with our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Statement and Action Plan will be fully investigated and dealt with in an appropriate manner."

D. Goodman

D. Goodman