Sunday 24 September 2017

Sean Gallagher claims he was treated with ‘hostility’ by RTE over bogus tweet broadcast

Sean Gallagher
Sean Gallagher

Ed Carty and Sarah Stack

FORMER presidential candidate Sean Gallagher has compared his treatment by RTE to that of defamed priest Father Kevin Reynolds after he complained about the broadcast of a bogus tweet.

The businessman said he was treated with hostility and arrogance when he tried to get answers from senior broadcasting executives about an unverified Twitter account he blamed for ruining his election hopes.



"I got some understanding of just how difficult it was for him to get justice," Mr Gallagher told a media conference.



The former Dragons' Den investor and Fianna Fail fundraiser said he made several unsuccessful attempts to get answers about the source of a tweet which raised questions about his political past and fundraising links to Fianna Fail.



"I did feel a sense of injustice about the tweet and how I had been treated," he said.



"I was just gobsmacked by the arrogance and hostility of their response. No contrition, no apology - not even considering that they did anything wrong."



Mr Gallagher contacted the state broadcaster direct, asked for a meeting with director general Noel Curran and lodged a freedom of information request before complaining to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).



He was angered by allegations lifted from an unverified Twitter account initially reported by Frontline host Pat Kenny as coming from the Sinn Fein-Martin McGuinness election campaign.



"I have to say I have great respect for the BAI and I know they came under great pressure at that time not to support my claim. They showed great honesty, great bravery," Mr Gallagher said.



"The similarities and parallels of what happened in RTE in their response to Fr Reynolds and my unfair treatment is how the church itself reacted when it became aware of the allegations of abuse in the 1990s - it went into defence mode.



"What it did then, it simply went on to compound even further the injustice and wrongdoing."



Mr Gallagher, who gave an online interview at the Media Futures Conference 2012, an event sponsored by RTE Digital, said allegations against him about having a leading Fianna Fail fundraising role were false.



He admitted helping to organise an event to drum up support for the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.



RTE was fined €200,000 over a documentary which wrongly accused the missionary priest of raping an under-age girl and fathering a child while working in Kenya 30 years ago.



Fr Reynolds was paid about €1m after suing and several members of staff quit over the error or were moved from current affairs.



Mr Gallagher said that while he had a lot of respect for senior figures at RTE, including journalists who contacted him over the Frontline episode now better known as Twittergate, he felt the treatment of Fr Reynolds was sickening and outrageous.



Mr Gallagher went on to claim he believed that a lot of senior people at the broadcaster were involved behind the scenes in both the Prime Time Investigates and Frontline series.



"I have not spoken to Pat Kenny and he has not spoken to me. It's a matter for Pat Kenny and it's a matter for RTE," Mr Gallagher said.



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