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European candidate says he was dragged out of the studio during Prime Time debate ad break

Mark Fitzsimons said no one was injured in the incident which took place after he refused to remove himself from the studio in protest at his exclusion from the first part of the debate.

Mark Fitzsimons
Mark Fitzsimons
Image: Facebook/John Smith

Updated: 4.15 pm

A EUROPEAN ELECTION candidate has claimed that he was physically dragged out of the studio before last night’s Prime Time debate got under way.

Mark Fitzsimons, an independent candidate who is blind, was protesting against his and other candidates’ exclusion from the first half of the television debate and he sat down on the studio floor before he and his carer were removed by security guards.

No one was injured in the incident.

The incident happened during an extended ad break before the first half of the debate got under way. It’s believed that Fitzsimons left the green room where candidates taking part in the second half debate were brought to wait.

Fitzsimons said he went into the studio for the first half of the debate but was asked to leave. However, he refused and then sat on the floor. His carer also stayed, saying he had to look after the candidate.

“I dropped to the ground and a few of them tried to drag my carer and I out the door,” Fitzsimons said today. “He (his carer) started saying he was responsible for me, he said he wasn’t involved but was there to make sure I was okay.

“They were dragging me around on the floor, but I kept flipping to get out of their grasp. They said they were going to call the guards, and I said: ‘Go ahead, more of the censorship’.”

Fitzsimons said he eventually relented because he did not want a situation where the security guards were shown on national television dragging him out of studio, so he “gave in”.

He insisted that “nobody was hurt or hit or anything like that”.

“The only thing that happened was that I was dragged along the floor. Every time they tried to drag me I would flip and lose them.”

Laura Fitzgerald, Communications Manager at RTÉ News & Current Affairs, confirmed that a “minor incident” took place ahead of last night’s debate.

“Mr Fitzsimons and his guest looked to make a protest and were asked to leave the studio area. Mr Fitzsimons later appeared on the programme and had the opportunity to voice his views and take part in the debate,” Fitzgerald noted.

Technical glitch

Several candidates have complained about the structure of last night’s debate, one saying privately they would have preferred if participants in both debates had been randomised.

Another, the Green Party candidate Mark Dearey, said: “I felt the candidates should have been drawn in a randomised way. Our end of debate didn’t have an incumbent and that affected the quality. There were no women. There were inherent problems with the way RTÉ organised it.”

Separately, RTÉ has insisted today that technical issues were behind the removal of the debate from the RTÉ Player.

Senator Rónán Mullen earlier criticised the posting of a shorter version of the second half of the debate before the entire debate was restored and then removed again. It has since been restored.

A spokesperson said this was “purely a technical glitch”.

First published: 3.09 pm

Read: 7 things we learned from last night’s Midlands North-West Prime Time debate

Read: MEP hopeful says she will report poster vandalism to gardaí

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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