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Monday 23 April 2018

Aeroplane sex-shame DJ in showdown job talks

Neil Prendeville who has no recollection of commiting an indescretion on an aeroplane. Photo: Tony Gavin
Neil Prendeville who has no recollection of commiting an indescretion on an aeroplane. Photo: Tony Gavin

NIAMH HORAN Entertainment News Reporter

Sex-shame DJ Neil Prendeville will meet station bosses for the first time since his 'lewd act' on board a flight from London to Cork to plead for his job back.

The showdown talks, to take place early this week, will decide if the presenter will go back to work as Cork 96FM's most prominent talk show host.

The dramatic meeting will focus on whether or not Mr Prendeville is mentally capable to return to employment; can continue on with his outspoken opinionated style of presenting, given the black mark on his reputation; and will be able to mend bridges with his colleagues and audience following the incident

Changes in salary will not be a major factor in the discussion.

Well-placed sources say that Cork 96FM and UTV bosses have several major hurdles to overcome before the DJ is back on the airwaves.

"This will be the very first time Neil will meet his employers face to face since the whole embarrassing saga began," explained a source.

"Obviously, it will be a very tense discussion as they trash out whether or not he can be taken back on in the same capacity as before.

"Trust has been broken between Neil and his audience, but in particular, his colleagues. They have suffered a great deal since the whole affair began."

As a separate source close to UTV said: "The station wants him back on the same morning show but the biggest obstacle is how he will be as judgmental, as opinionated, as high-minded as before -- which was his style and he was great at it -- when he has this black mark on his character.

"He will have to convince his bosses that he can come back and do the same job again and still be taken seriously.

"He'll have to have a strong case prepared. His future at the station is by no means secure as it stands."

The news comes four months after the outspoken presenter went off the airwaves following an incident on October 19 last when he allegedly committed a lewd act in public view of two Aer Lingus air hostesses and a female passenger on a flight from London to Cork.

They were returning from a press trip to meet celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.

Sources close to 96FM say reports that his future at the station is air-tight have been exaggerated.

"It is felt that the station is doing very well without him.

"Contrary to what was expected, his absence has not had any adverse affect on listenership."

The source continued: "If he did come back, sure people might tune in out of curiosity at the very beginning but that would all even out in the long run. It is felt that any well-publicised return wouldn't boost ratings significantly."

Speaking about the affect the incident has had on the station's image, the source continued: "Mr Prendeville hasn't damaged the reputation of the radio station to date, but bosses at 96FM will be careful how they manage the situation from here on out.

"That is where damage could potentially be done."

Meanwhile, sources close to Niamh Hennessy, the reporter who was seated next to Mr Prendeville when the incident happened, said she has been through a "terrible time" since witnessing the act.

"She's absolutely mortified and devastated over the whole thing."

Friends of Neil Prendeville, who is married to Paula Lenihan, editorial director of the successful social magazine RSVP, say he was "shattered" by the fallout from the affair.

"You've got to remember, he is a guy who unleashes hell on half of Ireland on his radio show. He's ruthless in his views and he is notorious for hitting out at bad behaviour and lenient sentences and all the other things that tick the boxes when a DJ wants to have a good rant.

"So how can he get back on his high horse after this has happened and preach to other people from his daily soap box? How could you take him seriously in that respect again? He's a great radio presenter but I suspect he will have to find a different style to work with before he goes back on the airwaves."

It emerged last week that the radio presenter would not to be prosecuted for committing the lewd act on the Aer Lingus flight because of a jurisdictional technicality.

Ms Hennessy and the crew members made statements to gardai, who sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions after completing their investigations.

While the DPP declined to give a reason for not prosecuting Mr Prendeville -- who apologised for the incident of which he says he has no memory due to a combination of drink and painkillers -- the female witnesses were told it was due to a jurisdictional technicality.

For certain offences -- such as jeopardising the safety of the aircraft, passengers, property and good order or discipline on board -- jurisdiction is defined at the moment the door of the aircraft is closed. For others -- such as causing offence to any person on board -- jurisdiction is determined at the moment power is applied for take-off.

Aviation law expert Richard Martin said that as the incident occurred while the aircraft was taxiing to the runway, prior to commencing take-off, Mr Prendeville would have been subject to British, not Irish law, in relation to committing an act likely to cause offence.

Ms Hennessy, who was seated next to Mr Prendeville on the flight, spoke last week of her upset at the decision not to prosecute.

"I am horrified and dismayed that Mr Prendeville is not to be prosecuted for his appalling and totally unacceptable actions."

She said what Mr Prendeville did was wrong. "His actions were vile. It begs the question should the gardai now hand the file over to the British authorities," she said.

Ms Hennessy said she would be making no further comment on the matter.

Neither Mr Prendeville nor his solicitor Gerald Kean could be contacted for comment last night. 96FM chief executive Kieran McGeary said he had no comment to make.

Sunday Independent

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