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Anne Harris: Gallagher devoid of bitterness -- but RTE must face public hearing

Sean Gallagher is clearly a man devoid of bitterness. It is, ironically, a very presidential trait. Possibly the single most important trait of that office, as we know from President McAleese's work with Loyalist terrorists.

Sean Gallagher has much to be bitter about. To lose the Presidency, in all probability because of the bogus tweet in The Frontline debate (something RTE's own exit polls bear out), was surely an injury. Now he has to deal with the insult -- the blithe brushing aside of his incalculable loss by those charged with seeing justice done: the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and the Minister for Communications.

First the BAI conveniently concluded that his complaint, which was upheld, was not "of such significant nature as to warrant an investigation or public hearing". This was followed by an extraordinarily flippant response by Minister Pat Rabbitte: "I'm not sure taking the programme team out at dawn and shooting them is called for."

All victims of abuse know that the damage is compounded a hundredfold by a lack of acknowledgement. Sean Gallagher was grossly abused by those vested with a responsibility to be fair and impartial. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from whistleblower Pat McGuirk's testimony, as told to Jody Corcoran and published in this newspaper today. Our story reveals interference by our national broadcaster, which influenced the course of a national election, on a truly shocking scale.

The problem for Sean Gallagher is that this is something that can never be fixed. As the Jewish proverb says: "A fool can throw a stone in a pool and a hundred rabbis cannot call the ripple back." The consequences of corrupting the debate are clearly immeasurable.

Just as nobody can ever calculate precisely the billions gained by Denis O'Brien as a result of getting the most lucrative government contract in the history of the State from disgraced politician Michael Lowry, nobody can ever calculate the loss to Sean Gallagher -- or indeed the Irish people -- by RTE's foul treatment of him.

Much has been written in the past week about this travesty, but one simple question seems to have eluded everybody. Why?

It is hard not to conclude that the aura of Fianna Fail which clung to Sean Gallagher, and which Fianna Fail itself believes is anathema to RTE, is the reason.

The most recent example was only last week when, on The Week in Politics, Micheal Martin found himself answering what he believed was Sean O'Rourke's argument that Bertie Ahern's "dig-out", the alleged acceptance of gifts of £39,000 and £8,000, on which he did not pay tax, was analagous to the £250m made by Denis O'Brien on the sale of Esat.

There are degrees in everything. There are consequences to actions. RTE must address what is being perceived by even some outside Fianna Fail as a bias against a democratic party of this State.

Fine Gael's silence on the matter suggests a certain complicity. This is short-sighted of it. It could have been a Fine Gael candidate. It might be next time. And there must be a public hearing into The Frontline debate.

Sunday Independent