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Alan Kelly is astonished at claims he verbally attacked Newstalk presenter

“I don’t think that’s a fair question. No, obviously not.”

Image: Eamonn Farrell

ALAN KELLY HAS denied threatening or intimidating staff at Newstalk after reports that he launched a verbal attack on a presenter before an interview yesterday morning.

The Environment Minister is reported to have “stormed” into Newstalk’s mobile studio in Thurles and demanded to know why the station’s Breakfast show presenter Chris Donoghue had given a more prominent slot to constituency rival Michael Lowry.

The Irish Independent reported how witnesses described Kelly as being irate over the programme’s airing of an item in which Donoghue interviewed Lowry during a canvass in Tipperary.

The item was played on-air before Kelly took part in a debate with independent TD Mattie McGrath and Fianna Fáil candidate Michael Smith junior.

Asked about the incident today, Kelly said he found questions about whether he threatened or intimidated staff at Newstalk “astonishing, to be frank”.

No, is the answer. Was I unhappy with the editorial choice? Yes.

“I voiced concerns of course to reflect that I was unhappy and didn’t agree,” he added.

Kelly was speaking at the launch of Labour’s general election campaign in Dublin today with Donoghue among the journalists in attendance.

Asked what his concerns were, Kelly did not refer to Lowry or Donoghue by name, but said:

My only issue was editorial choice and fairness, that was the only issue and I was only raising the fact that every one was given a chance to go on the show and one person was given a choice to go on earlier than everyone else. Simple as that.

Asked if he verbally abused Donoghue, Kelly said: “I don’t think that’s a fair question. No, obviously not.”

Donoghue is declining to comment on the incident.

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Tánaiste Joan Burton said she “cherishes” a free press and “robust political debate” when asked for her response to the incident. She continued:

All of the journalists that we deal with during the election, we deal with fairly and openly, we allow them access to us and that will continue and that’s what Minister Kelly was doing.

“He could have ducked maybe appearing on the show altogether. We have come and we have answered your questions and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability.”

Kelly has courted controversy in recent days after claiming he is his own boss –  only to later acknowledge that Burton is in fact his boss after the Labour leader had insisted she is the minister’s boss.

Appearing together at Labour’s election headquarters on Wednesday, Burton described Kelly as “an incredibly obedient employee”. She then clarified that Kelly is also her colleague.

Read: Joan Burton warns voters to ‘beware of Sinn Féin creeping in the night’

Read: Joan Burton says Alan Kelly is ‘an incredibly obedient employee’

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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