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Sunday 4 December 2016

Environment Minister Alan Kelly denies threatening Newstalk broadcaster Chris Donoghue

Philip Ryan and Kevin Doyle

Published 05/02/2016 | 17:57

Alan Kelly TD
Alan Kelly TD

UNDER-fire Environment Minister Alan Kelly has denied threatening Newstalk broadcaster Chris Donoghue ahead of a live broadcast yesterday morning.

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Mr Kelly’s denial comes after the Irish Independent revealed the minister stormed into Newstalk’s mobile studio in Tipperary before taking part in a live studio debate to complain about the station’s coverage.

The minister was infuriated that Independent TD Michael Lowry had been given a separate slot before the constituency debate, which featured Mr Kelly along with Fianna Fail candidate Michael Smith Jnr and Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Mr Kelly briefly complained on air about Mr Lowry having his own segment but sources say he also confronted Mr Donoghue before going on air over the show’s editorial decisions.

At the launch of the Labour Party’s election campaign today, he faced repeated questions from independent.ie over his confrontation with Mr Donohoe and whether he sought to influence the broadcaster’s editorial judgement.

Mr Kelly admitted he was “unhappy” with the radio station’s “editorial choice” and confirmed he did “voice concerns” with the host before the on air broadcast.

Asked if he hoped voicing his concerns would influence future Newstalk broadcasts, he said: “No, absolutely not”.

“My only issue was editorial choice and fairness. That was the only issue and I was only raising the fact everyone was given a chance to go on the show and one person was given a choice earlier than everyone else, simple as that,” he added.

Asked if he verbally abused Chris Donoghue, Mr Kelly said: “I don’t think that’s a fair question,” before adding: “No, obviously I didn’t”.

Tanaiste Joan Burton weighed in behind her deputy leader and praised him for taking part in the constituency debate.

“I cherish a free press in this country but there is also a robust political debate,” Ms Burton said.

“All of the journalists that we deal with during the election we deal with people fairly and openly, we allow them access to us and that will continue and that’s what Minister Kelly was doing.

He could have ducked maybe appearing on a show all together. We have come and we have answered your questions and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability,” she added.

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