Thursday 22 March 2018

'Alan Kelly wanted to be treated like royalty'

Environment Minister launches verbal attack on radio host over Lowry interview

Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
Alan Kelly. Photo: Tom Burke
A campaign poster for Alan Kelly is erected ahead of the general election

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Environment Minister Alan Kelly launched a verbal attack on a radio presenter before taking part in a bizarre live interview, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The Labour Party deputy leader "stormed" into Newstalk's mobile studio in Thurles yesterday demanding to know why presenter Chris Donoghue had given a "prime-time slot" to his constituency rival independent TD Michael Lowry.

Witnesses have said Mr Kelly was irate and directly confronted the 'Newstalk Breakfast' host just minutes before taking part in an on-air debate with independent TD Mattie McGrath and Fianna Fail candidate Michael Smith Jnr.

Earlier, the show had aired a segment where Mr Donoghue interviewed Mr Lowry during a walkabout in Tipperary.

During the piece, Mr Lowry denied ever taking a corrupt payment.

Read more: Mattie McGrath backtracks on claims Alan 'Jelly' Kelly hid in his van

After the three-way debate started, Mr Kelly briefly complained on air that the former Fine Gael minister had been given his own slot.

There were also heated exchanges where he accused Mr McGrath of being a bully and a coward.

Mr Smith, who was present in the studio before Mr Kelly arrived, told the Irish Independent: "He [Kelly] came in and started saying it wasn't a level playing field and making accusations.

"The language that was used was not appropriate as public representatives who are representing the public."

Similarly Mr McGrath said: "I walked into a stand-up row between him and Chris Donoghue.

"Alan Kelly didn't like not being first on. He wanted to be treated like royalty."

He added: "I'm a long time going in and out of studios and I've never heard the likes of the insults that were traded with the presenter."

A spokesman for the minister last night described the incident as "a storm in a teacup".

"I categorically refute that bad language was used. There was an issue. Alan raised it with the presenter and we were happy with how it was dealt with," he said.

Mr Donoghue declined to comment on the incident.

During the live interview, Mr Kelly then traded a series of verbal blows with Mr McGrath.

More than once during the discussions, Mr Donoghue was forced to tell the election candidates to stop "shouting at each other, please".

At one point Mr McGrath alleged the minister had to hide in his van in order to escape angry anti-water protesters in Cashel.

"You weren't allowed to canvas in Cashel last Sunday ... You had to go into my van for cover…" he began before being cut short by the minister.

Mr McGrath later admitted to the Irish Independent that Mr Kelly was not present in his election van when a female protester started banging on the window in a bid to locate the Labour TD.

"He wasn't in my van, no. But a woman approached it and started banging on the window looking for Alan Kelly," he said.

"But if Alan 'Jelly' Kelly wants to ever come into my van, I'll put the refrigerator on. I've never seen a jelly bean like Alan Kelly," Mr McGrath said.

A spokesman for Mr Kelly said: "That only happened in the ice-cream van that plays the music in his head.

"He is making things up."

Irish Independent

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