independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

O'Callaghan left 'shaken' after McGuinness row

Martin McGuinness with Colm Meaney

TV Presenter Miriam O'Callaghan was said to have been left "badly shaken" by an angry confrontation between herself and Martin McGuinness following Wednesday's presidential debate.

Eye-witnesses described to the Irish Independent how, following the debate, an entourage from Sinn Fein hung around the room allocated for guests in RTE.

The group were said to be irate about the questions put to Mr McGuinness during the debate, which had included the mother of eight asking the Derryman how could he claim to be a man of religion and yet be "involved in the murder of so many people".

When Mr McGuinness arrived out of the studio, he asked to speak directly to O'Callaghan.

Witnesses

Sources said he took her aside into an adjoining dressing room off the Green Room. O'Callaghan was asked if she wanted a colleague to accompany her but she declined.

Inside, he expressed his displeasure about questions posed to him during the debate.

Witnesses said voices were raised during the course of the five-minute discussion. Mr McGuinness then departed with the Sinn Fein spindoctors.

Last night it was confirmed to the Irish Independent that O'Callaghan had been "badly shaken" by the encounter with the Sinn Fein leader who had accused her of asking "disgraceful questions" during the debate.

"There were quite a few people in that corridor who saw Ms O'Callaghan leave that meeting. They would confirm that she did look shell-shocked by what happened. It would take an awful lot to leave Miriam shaken in that way," said a source.

Last night, RTE declined to comment on the matter but insiders said the broadcaster wanted to play down the incident in case Sinn Fein should boycott the the final 'Frontline' leaders' debate hosted by Pat Kenny.

It came as Mr McGuinness turned to Hollywood last night to bolster his presidential campaign -- with stars Colm Meaney, Roma Downey, Angelica Huston and Fionnula Flanagan lining up to back the former IRA commander.

In a rousing rally at the Mansion House, personalities from the literature, drama, business, sporting and political worlds combined to persuade voters Sinn Fein politician was the man for the Aras.

Little time was wasted before the controversy surrounding the 'Prime Time' debate was touched on with ' Star Trek' actor Meaney launching a broadside at the media.

Shameful

"The shameful media coverage has done nothing to deter the plain people of Ireland from realising it is a vindictive, a backward and narrow-minded campaign and it won't work. It's going to backfire."

The attack sparked rapturous applause and the alleged attacks against Mr McGuinness was a frequent occurrence by speakers at the rally.

The word statesman and visionary were repeatedly used to describe the man himself. A large screen above the stage beamed endorsements from across the world.

Roma Downey claimed she was proud of her fellow Derry native, whilst Fionnula Flanagan reminded us of Mr McGuinness's past.

"Yes he has a controversial past but let's not forget he was fighting a war. Let's not forget that."

Irish Independent

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