| 9.1°C Dublin

Lenihan forced to flee RTE in security scare

A JUNIOR minister was advised to leave RTE after members of a hardline republican group allegedly breached security during Pat Kenny's Frontline programme.

Staff working on the current affairs programme raised concerns for Science Minister Conor Lenihan's safety after discovering two unauthorised people in the show's green room.

It is believed that the pair may have intended to "ambush" the minister after his appearance on the live show.

Sources at the station have told the Herald that it was "belatedly discovered" during the live output that two people associated with the group Eirigi were inside the building.

Activities from the same republican organisation were behind the attempted storming of the Dail in May and also led protests against Tony Blair's book signing in Eason's last month.

Minister Lenihan was a panellist on the first episode in the new series of the Frontline, which was debating the epidemic of unemployment.

The majority of audience members were unemployed people who were there to give their personal experiences and grievances with the Government.

However, it is normal practice after the show that Pat Kenny and his guests mingle with audience members over some refreshments in the green room but the RTE security advised the minister that it might be better to avoid this. Informed sources told the Herald: "We believe that they [the two people] may have been there to ambush the minister."

It is understood that Mr Lenihan immediately left the studio with his handlers who were furious about the situation.

"They shouldn't allow him to be exposed to organisations like Eirigi. It put the Minister in a potentially awkward position," said a source.


He was not aware of the problem until after the show finished around 11.40pm and left RTE immediately.

Eirigi has told the Herald that no members of their organisation were in the audience of the show nor did any apply for tickets. "The creation of this issue by RTE and the interest it has attracted carries strong undertones of McCarthyite paranoia, which is no doubt motivated by the fact that Eirigi is growing in support among the working class communities who have been affected most by the economic crisis," said spokesman Daithi Mac An Mhaistir.

"The alleged reaction of Conor Lenihan is indicative of the Dublin government's attitude towards working people -- when the prospect of engagement with a room full of unemployed people presented itself, Conor Lenihan ran and hid."

A spokesperson for RTE was unable to comment on the situation.

Last year, Pat Kenny was forced to cut short an interview with Minister Mary Hanafin when a member of the audience began shouting abuse at him.

Alan O'Brien was removed by security after he interrupted the live show to launch a tirade against the presenter.