Why have RTE apologised to ex-presidential candidate Sean Gallagher?
The Irish public service broadcaster RTE recently apologised to the ex-presidential candidate Sean Gallagher. We want to know why?
Why does RTÉ have its tail between its legs today?
The managing director of RTÉ News and Current Affairs, Kevin Bakhurst, apologised to Sean Gallagher and the other presidential candidates following an independent report into a live Frontline presidential debate last year.
The report found that Frontline production staff made serious mistakes during the debate, which was hosted by Pat Kenny and broadcast live on RTÉ One. Kevin Bakhurst has today revealed that several members of RTÉ’s current affairs staff have been disciplined over the matter, but he didn’t go into detail about their punishment – whips and chains we assume.
You may remember the debate in question when details emerged that Sean Gallagher had collected a cheque from a businessman for Fianna Fail to the tune of €5,000. It pretty much put an end to Gallagher’s presidential bid...
So what are the main things that went down during the debate?
Well the biggest blunder of the night had to be when Pat Kenny read out a bogus tweet that made a lot of people question Gallagher’s ethics. In the programme Kenny addressed Gallagher and said the “Martin McGuinness for President” twitter account had tweeted “Sinn Féin are saying they are going to produce the man who gave you the cheque for five grand”. However, someone in the Frontline backroom didn’t do their homework because the "Martin McGuinness for President" twitter account was a fake.
Wow, so is that all RTÉ were sorry for?
Not quite. The independent report on the Frontline debate also found that Sean Gallagher was asked the most direct questions from audience members on the night, while Michael D. Higgins, who would go on to win the presidency, wasn’t asked a single one. The report also found that there was a lack of staff training and editorial responsibility, as well as serious flaws in audience selection.
So is Pat Kenny taking any of the heat for this?
Not really and in fairness it’s not as if it was his fault for reading out what his researchers handed him. For all he knew the tweet had been verified and it was 100 per cent legit. Even Pat’s predecessor Gay Byrne said he would have done the same thing, "If I had been Pat, I would have assumed that the piece of paper I had been handed had been checked by somebody. I wouldn't blame Pat for it, nor does anybody else.
"A mistake was made on the night, in the rush of the moment and with all the adrenaline pumping.”
Is there going to be a re-election now to see if Gallagher would actually have been voted in?
No, there will be no re-election. Gallagher can run for president again in seven years time, but we’ll doubt he’ll he bothered going through all that again.