RTÉ has apologised to Paschal Donohoe’s adviser over the manner in which a question about children’s shoes was put to the Finance Minister on Wednesday’s Morning Ireland, it has emerged.
Mr Donohoe reacted angrily after Morning Ireland host Dr Gavin Jennings noted that his party had a “particular history when it comes to children’s shoes” when he was asking the minister about calls for children’s shoes to be made an essential retail item during the pandemic.
Dr Jennings’ remark was a reference to the notorious 1982 budget decision by the then Fine Gael finance minister John Bruton to introduce VAT on children’s shoes which led to the collapse of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
Mr Donohoe responded: “Well Gavin, I am sorry you are referring to a budgetary decision that was made decades ago before I was even in politics about how we were handling a budget decision then.
“Your question has in it an implicit suggestion that my party and myself are not aware of the health needs that young children have which I just want to reject in its entirety.”
Dr Jennings responded by apologising, and said the availability of children’s shoes was regarded as essential by a paediatrician. But Mr Donohoe said the host was making an “inference” about how Fine Gael viewed that issue.
Fine Gael’s parliamentary party meeting heard criticism on Wednesday evening of what junior minister Patrick O'Donovan, a frequent critic of RTÉ, described as “an outrageous” question to put to Mr Donohoe.
Senator Jerry Buttimer described it as ”appalling” and said there should be a formal complaint made by Fine Gael to RTÉ about it.
The party’s head of communications, Barry Duggan, was asked by Mr O’Donovan to address the controversy. Mr Duggan told the parliamentary party meeting that following the programme, both Fine Gael and the Finance Minister’s office contacted Morning Ireland to complain.
It is understood that Mr Donohoe’s press adviser received an apology from the producer of the show over the manner in which the question by Dr Jennings had been framed.
RTÉ declined to comment.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced earlier that shoe shops would be allowed to open by appointment to provide shoes for children.