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SF deny claims they 'gagged' Kehoe

Fionnan Sheahan Political Correspondent

After complaining for years about Section 31 censorship of their party, Sinn Fein now appear to be banning themselves from going on TV.

The party last night denied they stopped their own councillor Nicky Kehoe from being interviewed by RTE.

The long-serving Dublin City councillor resigned his seat in recent weeks ahead of the next local elections to give his replacement a run-in period.

Despite missing out on being elected as a TD by just 80 votes in 2002, Mr Kehoe was replaced by MEP Mary-Lou McDonald in this year's general election in Dublin Central.

But the parachute candidate came nowhere near winning a seat as Sinn Fein's vote dropped by five per cent and she got 1,800 fewer votes than Mr Kehoe.

Mr Kehoe said he didn't want to run again in the general election, so there was a vacancy for Ms McDonald. However, there was widespread speculation that she was imposed as a candidate by the party leadership.

Cancelled

RTE arranged to speak to Mr Kehoe last week but the interview, to be carried out by Micheal Lehane for the 'The Week In Politics' show, was subsequently cancelled after the Sinn Fein press office got involved. Instead the party approved an interview with Felix Gallagher, another councillor who is resigning his seat.

RTE presenter Sean O'Rourke said on the show that the party is clearly embarrassed by some of the media fallout from its overall general election results.

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"We had an arrangement made to interview Nicky Kehoe and the party press office sat on that arrangement," he said.

Mr O'Rourke pointed out to Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris that he had praised Mr Kehoe's "lifetime of service" to the party. "That's some way to be treated by head office, isn't it," he said.

But the Sinn Fein press officer who handled the issue said the party took a decision to put forward Mr Gallagher. The arrangements for Mr Kehoe's interview were not finalised with RTE and its cancellation wasn't about being "controlling".

"He wasn't not allowed to be interviewed by RTE. Nicky had a provisional arrangement with RTE. There is no story here. There was just a provisional agreement," she said. "I really have to emphasise he wasn't sat on. He wouldn't let me sit on him. He is his own man," she added.


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