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Thursday 2 October 2014

Sean Gallagher won't fight poll result after Frontline apology

Michael Brennan and Louise Hogan

Published 20/11/2012 | 05:00

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FORMER presidential candidate Sean Gallagher is not going to mount a legal challenge to the result of the election.

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Staff at RTE have been sanctioned in the wake of the controversial 'Frontline' presidential debate programme – which political analysts have pinpointed as a turning point in the close battle for the Aras.

After RTE made public a damning internal report on the 'Frontline' debate, a source close to Mr Gallagher said there was no prospect of him going to the courts.

"He's a person who looks to the future and not to the past," the source said. But the source said that Mr Gallagher was as "bruised" as others by his experiences during the campaign.

The editorial review found "personal friends" of the production team should not be selected as audience members for election programmes.

The report's authors – independent reviewer Rob Morrison and RTE's director of programmes Steve Carson – found it was "wrong" and a "significant omission" that no direct challenging question from an audience member was posed to the eventual winner Michael D Higgins.

David Nally, managing editor of RTE's current affairs television, accepted the debate had "changed the outcome" of the presidential election.

Many people watching decided in the "final few days that it was too big a leap" to vote Sean Gallagher straight into the office from "nowhere", Mr Nally yesterday told Newstalk radio.

Election analysts believed presidential runner-up Mr Gallagher's reaction to 'Tweetgate' live on television may have cost him voters.

Complaint

A tweet was read out from the unofficial 'Martin McGuinness for President' Twitter account on the live show. It claimed Sinn Fein was going to produce a man who handed Mr Gallagher €5,000 for Fianna Fail.

A complaint by Mr Gallagher to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland was upheld.

However, the one-time frontrunner in the polls has said he has no regrets about running for office and may consider it again in the future.

Mr Gallagher, who has returned to the lecture podium at motivational speaking events, has also revealed he and his wife Trish are expecting their first baby in March.

Kevin Bakhurst, RTE director of news and current affairs, said there were a number of "serious mistakes" made in the programme. However, the report detailed the mistakes were not the result of any "bias". He declined to provide details of the level of sanctions imposed or name the staff members involved.

The former BBC boss said RTE had already implemented the report's recommendations.

Mr Bakhurst admitted pressures for "resources" may have been a factor in the design of the debate.

"I'm happy to issue another apology to Mr Gallagher and to the other candidates," Mr Bakhurst added.

Mr Gallagher's former PR adviser Richard Moore said that RTE had now apologised to Mr Gallagher for the "fake tweet" controversy and again for faults in the editorial control of the programme.

"While some people may see little point in the presidency, it is still the first office in the land," he told Newstalk.

Irish Independent

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