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Sinn Féin closes WhatsApp group over 'inappropriate and disrespectful' texts about President Higgins

The messages sent during Saturday’s Presidential debate suggested Higgins needed a booster seat.

Presidential Candidates Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Sean Gallagher, (current) President Michael D Higgins and Liadh Ní Riada.
Presidential Candidates Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Sean Gallagher, (current) President Michael D Higgins and Liadh Ní Riada.
Image: Sam Boal

SINN FÉIN HAS closed down a WhatsApp group after messages sent to it described President Michael D Higgins as a ‘leprechaun’.  

The messages were sent during the first radio debate between all six candidates in the Presidential election on RTÉ radio’s Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra

According to images shared in the Irish Daily Star the texts included a photograph of Higgins seated in studio during the debate, with one comment saying he should have been offered a “booster seat”. 

A Sinn Féin spokesperson described the WhatsApp messages as “both inappropriate and disrespectful”:

These messages are both inappropriate and disrespectful. Sinn Féin has clear social media guidelines and this behaviour is in breach of those guidelines. 

Sinn Féin has closed down the group chat saying all of those will be spoken to in relation to the breach of its policies.

The WhatsApp group has been shut down and the members involved will be contacted to account for this breach.

The debate saw the incumbent Michael D Higgins face a series of questions on the costs of running the Áras during his Presidency. Fellow candidate Peter Casey pushed the matter, questioning whether the costs included dog grooming services for the President’s pets Sioda and Brod.

After the debate, a spokesperson for the Michael D Higgins campaign said that Casey’s claim about dog grooming bills was “false and ludicrous”.

 All the costs of the dogs’ upkeep are met from the President’s own funds.

Another Presidential debate will take place tonight on RTE 1′s Claire Byrne Live between four of the candidates: Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ni Riada and Peter Casey. President Higgins and Sean Gallagher have declined to attend. The programme begins at 9.35pm. 

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Aisling O'Rourke

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