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Saturday 25 November 2017

Malevolent souls forced me out of race, says Gay

Aggressive and 'loony' journalism left veteran presenter deeply upset

Gay Byrne
Gay Byrne

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter and John Drennan

BROADCASTER Gay Byrne blames "malice-filled dangerous souls" who, he says, were responsible for his decision not to contest the presidency.

Writing in the Sunday Independent today, the former Late Late Show presenter lashes out at a "News of the World mentality" in Irish journalism which sought to denigrate him "with gusto" and left him "deeply upset".

"There sure are some malevolent, malice-filled, dangerous souls who delight in the chance to destroy, undermine and denigrate, what I'd call the News of the World mentality -- do anything for a story, and you end up with the hacking scandal," he writes.

His comments come as a Sunday Independent/Quantum Research telephone poll showed that the withdrawal of David Norris from the race and the decision of Mr Byrne and GAA broadcaster Micheal O Muircheartaigh not to stand has left the electorate deeply confused, with more than half of the respondents saying they had not yet made up their minds on how they would vote.

Mr Byrne remains bruised by his experience.

"In my case, these people had 40 years of Late Late Show and 30 years of The Gay Byrne Show to fall back on for ammunition, and they went scurrying to it with gusto," he added.

He said he was shocked by the level of media intrusion over his past, including his well-known financial woes, and that the level of misinformation was "breathtaking".

"Every five minutes there was some clown on the phone asking me could I stand over what I said on either show about such-and-such in 1976, 1983, or 1968?

"I've been accustomed to pretty regular maulings by the press through the years, and I've always considered it part of the job, but for anyone new to the game it must be deeply upsetting. The level of misinformation, half-baked conjecture and loony theorising that goes on is breathtaking," he said.

But it is clear the vast majority of the Irish people endorse Micheal Martin's desire to stay out of the presidential race, despite a significant backlash from within his party at the decision.

According to the latest Quantum Research poll conducted for the Sunday Independent, a massive 75 per cent of those polled thought Fianna Fail should not enter a candidate in the race. The anger at the party displayed in the general election has not abated if the comments are anything to go by.

In contrast, Martin has been slammed by the younger wing of the Fianna Fail party in the wake of Brian Crowley's decision to withdraw from the race. In a spontaneous discussion on a FF Facebook page which broke out in the aftermath of Crowley's departure, the FF leader was called "spineless'' and "a f**king disgrace''.

Respondents to our poll said in their droves they felt FF was still lacking credibility and deserving of an indefinite time-out in the political wilderness. Just 14 per cent of those polled thought FF should endorse a party member and Brian Crowley's name did surface a number of times, while 11 per cent felt the party should endorse an independent candidate.

Our poll also shows that for those left in the race it is all to play for, as 51 per cent of people have not yet made up their minds. Once those don't-knows are excluded, Labour's Michael D Higgins is the favourite on 47 per cent. He has been the chief beneficiary of David Norris's exit from the race. Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell is on 23 per cent, independent Mary Davis is on 16 per cent, while former FF party member and Dragons' Den star Sean Gallagher is on 14 per cent.

Meanwhile, Ms Davis has revealed herself as strongly pro-life; the independent candidate opposes abortion and believes strongly in the family unit.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, the mother of four and Special Olympics organiser said abortion was wrong and that it was her deep feeling that women should not seek to terminate pregnancies -- rather they should seek help from other sources.

"I would describe myself as strongly pro-life. It is deeply regrettable that so many women have to go abroad to have abortions. I would prefer they remained here, and sought help from other avenues," she said.

She said that the only circumstances where abortion could be deemed an acceptable option was in a case of extreme sexual violence and assault. She said she wasn't opposed to homosexuals being granted the same legal rights but she did say she believed in the strength of family unit.

Ms Davis's strong links with media owner Denis O'Brien has led to continued accusations that he is somehow bankrolling her campaign. She denied her campaign was bankrolled by Mr O'Brien but has not ruled out the possibility that he may make a donation.

"He is certainly not bankrolling the campaign, nor has he made any donation yet. There are strict rules as to how campaigns are financed. But I am willing to take donations from wherever I can find them," she said.

Sunday Independent

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