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claire byrne live

Seán Gallagher: RTÉ reading out a statement for Michael D Higgins was 'bizarre'

During the debate, Gavin Duffy told Claire Byrne that “It’s not your job to be a spokesperson for the President.”

RIVER Gallagher

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SEÁN Gallagher has said that it was “bizarre” that RTÉ read out a statement from Michael D Higgins during the Claire Byrne Live presidential debate.

RTÉ’s Claire Byrne debate, which aired on Monday night, featured four of the six presidential candidates. Michael D Higgins declined to appear on the show citing presidential duties, and Gallagher also refused, saying that he wouldn’t take part in any debate where all candidates weren’t in attendance.

During the debate between Peter Casey, Liadh Ní Riada, Gavin Duffy, and Joan Freeman, Casey made a statement about Higgins was unable to defend claims about how much he spends on dog-grooming.

Later in the programme, presenter Claire Byrne read a message from a spokesperson for Higgins saying that it was inaccurate. 

Duffy responded by telling Byrne, “It’s not your job to be a spokesperson for the President”, and Casey added that Higgins should have shown up.

Speaking on’s The Candidate podcast, Gallagher said that he thought the decision to read that statement out was bizarre.

“I thought that it was bizarre that that would happen I don’t understand why they would have done that and a lot of people have said to me since, surely they would have learned from 2011 not to let those sorts of things happen.
“They read out a statement – were there any facts behind it to back it up, was there any evidence, was there a set of accounts that showed that. That was pretty bizarre, I think everybody would accept that.”

 Listen to the Seán Gallagher episode of The Candidate here:

The Candidate / SoundCloud

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Gallagher said that he watched the Claire Byrne debate despite refusing to take part, saying that he had a debate on Morning Ireland the next day.

He said that he thought most debates were “gladiator-styled” and about “taking pot shots at people”.

“In truth it should be about getting to know the candidates,” he said.

I think elections should be about celebrating the people who step forward.

Gallagher said that the number of front pages about the Tweetgate incident in the 2011 election was “unfortunate”, and that it has taken a long time to get over the incident, not least of all because of the court case he took against RTÉ over the incident.

“It wasn’t my fault that it would take 6 years… many people told me not to take on the state broadcaster and it was tough.”

What was Tweetgate again?

Gallagher and the other candidates were taking part in the last live TV debate of the election, and was responding to allegations from the Sinn Féin candidate, Martin McGuinness that he’d collected a cheque for €5,000 for Fianna Fáil.

Presenter Pat Kenny then read out a tweet from an account which purported to be linked to McGuinness.

But the Tweet turned out to be from a false account – RTÉ apologised to Gallagher in 2017 and paid him substantial damages in an out-of-court settlement.

Gallagher’s response to that tweet is considered to have lost him his substantial lead – which was at 40% at one point – and he said that he let himself down that night.

The presidential election is on this Friday, 26 October.

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