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Rabbitte lost for words at 'innuendo' of vested interest in Gallagher probe

Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming accuses Rabbitte of having a “personal financial vested interest” in the Presidential election.

FF's Seán Fleming said Pat Rabbitte should have handed responsibility for the BAI inquiry to another minister, because of his own interest in the presidential election.
FF's Seán Fleming said Pat Rabbitte should have handed responsibility for the BAI inquiry to another minister, because of his own interest in the presidential election.

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER Pat Rabbitte has admitted to being “lost for words” after a Fianna Fáil front bench TD accused him of having a “personal financial vested interest” in the outcome of the Presidential election and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s investigation into the Seán Gallagher ‘bogus tweet’ affair.

Speaking during a Topical Issues debate in the Dáil this afternoon, Seán Fleming suggested that Rabbitte should have stepped aside and handed responsibility for the BAI inquiry into RTÉ’s procedures to another minister.

Fleming said he was personally surprised that Rabbitte had personally attended the Dáil discussion given that he had canvassed for, and made a personal donation to, another candidate in the Presidential election.

Filings made by Michael D Higgins’ campaign last month showed that Rabbitte had made a €1,000 donation, by cheque, to his party.

“You had a personal financial vested interested in the outcome of the election campaign,” Fleming said. “I genuinely believe that the proper procedure would be that a minister other than yourself… should have dealt with it.

“In the interest of impartiality and fairness, I think you should personally step aside in dealing from his political issue because of your personal financial interest in the campaign.”

‘Innuendo’

Rabbitte, evidently, was not prepared for the suggestion.

“I’m not often lost for words, but in all time in this house I have never less anticipated a line of questioning than we have just heard from my friend Deputy Fleming,” he said.

“I think the innuendo is outrageous. Of course it’s a matter of public record that I canvassed for my former parliamentary colleague.

That that has any bearing on an investigation of a complaint, on behalf of a defeated candidate in the presidential election, is little short of outrageous.

He added that both RTÉ and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland were independent bodies, and that this independence of both bodies was enshrined in the Broadcasting Act of 2009.

“How in Heaven’s name Deputy Fleming can think that I can conflicted in my approach for this,” Rabbitte said, leaving his sentence unfinished.

Fleming had previously called on Frontline host Pat Kenny to clarify the extent of his own involvement in the matter “in his own best interest”, saying it was possible for people to mistakenly believe he knew that the tweet he was reading was not from an official Sinn Féin account.

Rabbitte had agreed that Kenny was an “an eminent broadcaster with an unparalleled record and reputation as a presenter and mediator in public affairs”.

Read: RTÉ board to meet following BAI ruling on Frontline tweet>

More: RTÉ director general apologises to Gallagher over Frontline ‘mistakes’>

Column: BAI report does not close file on That Tweet>

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Gavan Reilly

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