Wednesday 17 January 2018

Candidate in studio row says RTE wrong to call gardai

Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan with Mark Fitzsimmon. Tom Burke
Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan with Mark Fitzsimmon. Tom Burke
Prime Time hosts Miriam O'Callaghan and David McCullough, inset Mark Fitzsimons

Niall O'Connor and Sam Griffin

A EUROPEAN election candidate has accused RTE of heavy-handed tactics after station bosses called gardai following his refusal to leave a studio.

There were farcical scenes in Montrose on Sunday night as a candidate in Midlands-North-West sparked a security alert.

Independent hopeful Mark Fitzsimons lay on the floor in the 'Prime Time' studio in protest at RTE's decision to hold two separate debates.

All sitting MEPs were to take part in the first debate, along with Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy and Labour's Lorraine Higgins.

The remainder of the candidates, including Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, were invited to take part in a second debate.

But Independent candidate Mark Mr Fitzsimons, who suffers from blindness, protested against the decision just minutes before the programme went live.

He lay down on the floor in front of the main candidates, which prompted RTE security to try and forcefully remove him from the studio.

A decision was taken to notify gardai. RTE staff managed to calm tensions and the second debate was conducted.

Mr Fitzsimons said he will now make a formal complaint to both RTE and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland over the debate structure. He accused RTE of going "over the top" by contacting the gardai.

An RTE spokeswoman said: "Mr Fitzsimons and his guest looked to make a protest and were asked to leave the studio area. Mr Fitzsimons later appeared on the programme and had the opportunity to voice his views."

Meanwhile, Mr Flanagan refused to withdraw remarks about RTE bosses, including Deputy Director General Kevin Bakhurst. Mr Flanagan compared Mr Bakhurst to "Judas". Asked whether he would withdraw the remark, Mr Flanagan replied: "If the cap fits."

Irish Independent

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