Friday 20 September 2019

Aer Lingus did not notify gardai of DJ's lewd act on flight

Neil Prendeville in April last year outside his restaurant, the Boardwalk Bar and Grill, Lapps Quay,
Cork city. Photo: Clare Keogh/Provision
Neil Prendeville in April last year outside his restaurant, the Boardwalk Bar and Grill, Lapps Quay, Cork city. Photo: Clare Keogh/Provision
Neil Prendeville and his wife Paula Lenihan, who is the editor of RSVP magazine. Photo: Clare Keogh/Provision
Prendeville's house in Douglas
Neil Prendeville takes part in a 'Celebrity Lockup' fundraiser in aid of the tsunami appeal at the Cork Heritage Jail in 2005

Ralph Riegel

AER Lingus last night refused to explain why it failed to alert gardai after a high-profile radio broadcaster allegedly masturbated in front of horrified travellers on a flight from London to Cork.

Neil Prendeville (49), a €150,000-a-year radio presenter for Cork's 96fm, is fighting to save his career after a formal complaint about his behaviour was made to gardai.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Prendeville was allowed to disembark the flight and exit the airport, despite his lewd actions -- which were witnessed by at least three people, including a young female journalist -- on the October 19 evening flight.

Whereas it is common practice to alert ground authorities when passengers are drunk, Aer Lingus did not inform gardai about the incident as the flight continued towards Cork.

Cabin crew and passengers -- including the reporter and a hotelier who witnessed the incident -- were said to be horrifed at what they saw shortly after take-off from London.

Mr Prendeville issued a grovelling on-air apology yesterday, although he claimed that he could not remember anything -- not even arriving at the airport -- because he had taken painkillers and alcohol.

He had been in London as a guest of the Cork Convention Bureau and had been entertained with other guests, including Cork's Lord Mayor Michael O'Connell, at the Bentley's restaurant of Irish chef Richard Corrigan.

Aer Lingus has refused to comment on why neither gardai nor airport police were called.

It said: "It is the airline's policy not to comment on any matters relating to security."

Garda sources in Cork confirmed last night that a formal complaint had been made and was now being investigated.

Mr Prendeville made an on-air apology yesterday but claimed he had no recollection of his behaviour.

The DJ, who has gone on leave after consulting his embarrassed employers and celebrity solicitor Gerard Kean, said he had consumed painkillers for a sore neck, as well as alcohol.


It is alleged that he first exposed himself while seated in the plane's front row and then masturbated under the partial cover of an in-flight magazine.

He was sat between two passengers -- one of them a female reporter for the 'Irish Examiner' -- and faced towards two air stewardesses. After the plane took off, a stewardess ordered him to stop his lewd behaviour.

The incident was later brought to the attention of the pilot but the radio star was not detained upon his arrival at Cork Airport at 11.30pm.

Mr Prendeville hosts the morning show for the UTV-owned Cork radio station and is one of the highest-earning radio stars outside Dublin.

Last night, a UTV spokesman said: "We are aware of the story -- but we do not comment on individual staff issues."

Last week, the airline denied to the Irish Independent that it had a report on any such incident -- but now it says that it is to file a security report to gardai.

Yesterday, Mr Prendeville, despite claiming he could not remember anything, apologised on air to his family, his listeners and his employers. He did not present his show yesterday.

He said: "I was asked to go to London to give a speech at a convention and I had taken three painkilling tablets before I left Cork.

"I remember being in the restaurant. I remember giving the speech. I remember being outside the restaurant and talking with some other people.

"I know that I arrived there by train and by taxi and I do not recall how I got back to the airport. But I did get back to the airport and I did travel on the flight in question.

"Because of a persistent neck injury, I took those painkillers again prior to boarding the plane, along with alcohol while at the restaurant.

"As a result, I remember absolutely nothing about the flight or coming through the airport or even how I got home.

"If the reports are true -- and I cannot deny that they are not because I just don't recall -- then I would like to take this opportunity to offer my deepest apologies to the passengers on the plane, to the flight personnel, to my family, to my employers and my work colleagues and to all of the people of Cork."

Irish Independent

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