Irish Olympic target shooting

Prime Time

Some news coverage is more infuriating than others. For anyone who didn’t see the Prime Time hatchet job on the shooting community, these letters ought to give you a good idea of how shooters received it. First to Prime Time themselves:

Dear Sir/Madam,
I have watched Prime Time and it’s predecessors for many years now, but until tonight I have never seen a segment on a topic I know so well. I’m an Olympic target shooter myself. I own three licenced firearms. I have taken national medals, I have coached, I have helped run the national governing body in the fourteen years I’ve been shooting and I have had the honour of representing our country internationally. I was also the resident expert on the recent firearms legislation for the national governing body and have represented Olympic target shooting in negotiations with the Department of Justice regarding this legislation.

I have to say, that based upon my knowledge and experience of this field, your report on Tuesday was exceptionally poor, with gross errors in fact and was libellous at several points. You have portrayed the most law-abiding section of Irish society – and the only section where every member has been deemed to be safe and responsible by the Gardai – as being a group of mindless dangerous gun-crazed idiots. This is reprehensible.

Where was the interview with Garreth Byrne of the firearms section of the Department of Justice or any of his section? Where was the interview with Superintendent Noel Clarke, responsible within the Gardai for the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act’s Firearms legislation? Where was the coverage of the recent Firearms Consulative Panel conference from two weeks ago, where over two days representatives of the shooting community, the Department of Justice and the Gardai all met to discuss the changes in the firearms legislation?

Who checked the facts from the Times security correspondant, whose comments bore no resemblence to fact in any shape or form, but which were pure sensationalism from start to finish? I could understand one or two errors, no man is a perfect expert, but every single fact he proferred was grossly in error. From the range of a .308 rifle, to the characteristics of a 9mm pistol, every technical fact was simply wrong. And the less technical statements he made would trigger libel lawsuits had they been made at a more specific group. Since when is it responsible journalism to state that it is only a matter of time before someone from a group of people will shoot at a schoolyard?

Being the national broadcaster carries with it the responsibility to inform the public in an even and accurate manner. Being the flagship in-depth news show for that broadcaster adds to that responsibility. Tonight you abdicated from that responsibility and embarked on a spree of sensationalist scaremongering, dragging through the mud the name of the only section of Irish society where every member is approved by the Gardai as being safe and responsible.

Yours in abject digust,

And to the Letters to the Editor pages of several newspapers:

Dear Madam,
I have watched Prime Time and it’s predecessors for many years now, but until tonight I have never seen it cover a topic I know so well. I’m an Olympic target shooter and have been for fourteen years. I’ve competed, coached, run competitions. I’m a licenced judge. I’ve represented my country internationally, and my sport to the government. I say this not to brag, but so that you will understand that I am proferring informed opinion when I say that the coverage of changes in the Firearms Act in Tuesday’s Prime Time was excretable rubbish.

The most law-abiding section of Irish society – and the only section of our society where every single person has been deemed to be safe and responsible by the Gardai – has had its name dragged through the mud by the flagship news show of the national broadcaster. This is utterly reprehensible.

Where was the interview with Garreth Byrne of the firearms section of the Department of Justice? Where was the interview with Superintendent Noel Clarke, responsible within the Gardai for the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act’s changes to our firearms legislation? Where was the coverage of the recent Firearms Consultative Panel conference, where representatives of the shooting community, the Department of Justice and the Gardai all met to discuss the changes in the firearms legislation and how we would work together to implement them safely and efficiently?

And what on earth possessed your own security correspondant, whose comments bore no resemblence to fact in any shape or form, but which were pure sensationalism from start to finish? I could understand one or two errors, no man is a perfect expert, but every single fact he proferred was grossly in error. From the range of a .308 rifle, to the characteristics of a 9mm pistol, every technical “fact” he proferred was wrong, not by a small amount, but enormously so. And the less technical statements he made would trigger libel lawsuits had they been made at a named individual. Since when is it responsible journalism to state that it is only a matter of time before someone from a group of people will shoot at a schoolyard? The man has made a mockery of himself amongst those with actual knowlege of the subject – the very people whose names he has just spat upon.

How can anyone call this fair and balanced journalism? I dread the flood of letters in the editorial pages of our nation’s press from people who have now been terrified by this utter dross, not to mention the coverage which will no doubt ensue on our airwaves, as our name – *my* name – is dragged through the mud over and over again in the days to come.

Yours in abject digust,

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