Irish state broadcaster RTE has been accused of more editorial negligence as independent candidate Sean Gallagher claims the station cost him the recent presidential election.
Gallagher has lodged an official complaint against RTE over its handling of a tweet he claims cost him the presidency. His demand for a public hearing into the decision making process comes as the fall-out intensifies from the Fr Kevin Reynolds libel case.
The broadcaster is already at the eye of a public storm over its handling of a libellous claim that missionary priest Fr Reynolds raped a teenage Kenyan girl in 1982, made her pregnant and abandoned both mother and child.
In the latest blow to the station, Gallagher has lodged a 32 page official complaint with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland over his infamous 'Prime Time' row with Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness.
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Favorite to be elected president before the show, Gallagher’s hopes were blown out of the water when McGuinness revealed on the live TV debate that the independent candidate had acted as a "bagman" for Fianna Fail at a fund-raising dinner in Dundalk.
The program also broadcast a tweet which claimed that the donor would be produced at a Dublin press conference the next day.
The tweet, allegedly from a Sinn Fein source, read: “The man that Gallagher took the cheque from will be at a press conference tomorrow. #aras11.”
In his submission, lodged to the Broadcasting Authority last Tuesday, Gallagher claims that the "false tweet" and the Prime Time program "ambushed" his candidacy.
The Sunday Independent newspaper also reports that Gallagher is demanding an oral and/or public hearing into the behaviour of RTE management and their decision to publicly broadcast the tweet which later transpired to be a hoax.
The paper reports that Gallagher is also seeking a "formal apology" from the broadcaster.
An RTE spokesman confirmed to the Sunday Independent that it had received the complaint.
“This matter is currently the subject of a complaint to the BAI and we will be dealing with it through that process, that is the only way in which it can be dealt with at this time,” he said.
The paper also reports that Gallagher has claimed in his submission that:
- RTE at all times expressly or implicitly represented to him, the audience, viewers and to the electorate that the source of the tweet was Sinn Fein
-That it was an official tweet published by the campaign of Martin McGuinness
-That Sinn Fein had organized a press conference at which the allegations already denied by Mr Gallagher would be repeated
-That Sinn Fein would produce the businessman whom it was claimed had made the allegations to McGuinness
-That Gallagher had lied to the audience, the viewers and the electorate.
The complaint also highlights that Sinn Fein disowned the tweet during the course of the live debate.
He further claims that RTE did not make any reference to the official tweet and failed to draw this information to his attention, or to the attention of McGuinness, the audience, viewers and the electorate at any time during the remaining 26 minutes of the live broadcast.
The submission says: “The dramatic presentation of the assertion that Sinn Fein had made an official statement, that it was to hold a press conference, did cause Mr Gallagher to honestly doubt his recollection which had grave personal and political consequences.
“RTE ought to have known that the fake tweet came from an account other than the official Sinn Fein account.”