Wednesday 22 November 2017

McGuinness denies row with RTE’s O’Callaghan, brands debate trial by television

Presidential Candidate Martin McGuinness pictured speaking to the media at the National Ploughing Championships at Cardenton Near Athy yesterday.Pic Frank Mc Grath
Presidential Candidate Martin McGuinness pictured speaking to the media at the National Ploughing Championships at Cardenton Near Athy yesterday.Pic Frank Mc Grath reporters

MARTIN McGuinness has denied that he had a row with Prime Time presenter Miriam O'Callaghan after the presidential debate last night.

Canvassing in Co Cavan, presidential candidate Mr McGuinness also lambasted the debate as trial by television.

He said that he had asked for a one-to-one meeting with her after the Prime Time programme and he described the encounter as “low key”.

But he expressed disappointment at the way the debate, in which he was questioned about his religion, his membership of the IRA and his knowledge of the killers of Pte Patrick Kelly, was handled.

"I was accused of being a murderer. That was wrong," said Mr McGuinness adding that he was then "subject to a show trial on television.”

"Miriam went round all the other candidates and asked each and every one of them if I was suitable to be president.

"She didn't ask me if I thought any of them were suitable for the President of Ireland."

Earlier it emerged that Mr McGuinness had already expressed his anger at Ms O’Callaghan’s line of questioning directly to her after the programme.

It is understood that Sinn Fein complained strongly to Primetime producer Ken O’Shea and RTE’s managing director of news, Ed Mulhall after the 90 minute encounter.

TV anchor Ms O’Callaghan agreed to speak to Mr McGuinness in her private dressing room after the show and it is understood he articulated his views in no uncertain terms.

Sources at RTE for the debate said that the Sinn Fein contingent was furious at what they regarded as unfair questions to their candidate.

During the debate Mr McGuinness became very testy at the line of questioning and at one point called Ms O’Callaghan’s question on how he reconciled murder when he was in the IRA as ‘disgraceful’. At another stage he described a question as ‘stupid’.

David Cochrane, founder of posted that Mr McGuinness waited back until after the post-debate press conference was over and the room had emptied to ask Ms O’Callaghan for a private word.

“It turns out, that this private discussion was for Martin McGuinness to protest (give out?) to O'Callaghan for her line of questioning to him during the debate. Apparently McGuinness and SF are livid at how McGuinness was questioned,” he wrote.

Mr Cochrane also published a copy of an email forwarded to him that had been sent by Sinn Fein giving details of where Sinn Fein supporters could complain.

Sunday Independent journalist Ronald Quinlan recently wrote about his clash with Mr McGuinness’s handlers outside RTE.

Mr Quinlan said that after listening to Mr McGuinness explain that he lived on a salary of £30,000 (€35,000), he noticed two “nice” cars - a Volkswagen Passat and BMW X5 jeep – waiting for the Sinn Fein candidate outside the TV station.

As he prepared to take a photograph of the cars, Mr Quinlan said he was approached by four of Mr McGuinness's associates, one of whom expressed concern that we would publish an image in which the car's number plate would be visible.

Mr Quinlan said he then explained that the newspaper would normally black out the number plates.

However, he wrote that three other men then moved in closer than was comfortable, and proceeded to point their fingers and verbally harangue him.

Mr Quinlan added that when he informed the men that he worked for the Sunday Independent, one of them became particularly aggressive.

"Sunday Independent! I should have known. F**king gobshite! Thick!" he snapped.

RTE today refused to comment on the confrontation between Ms O’Callaghan and Mr McGuinness.

Last night’s Primetime debate peaked at over 700,000 with an average viewership of 654,300.

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