RTÉ has removed an interview with the parents of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar from its website following queries about a member of the Taoiseach’s staff who can be heard giving instructions to Mr Varadkar’s mother, writes Joe Leogue.
The State broadcaster removed the interview from its website after this newspaper asked for information as to the identity of the man, who can be heard off-camera directing Miriam Varadkar to change her comments about her son’s relationship with the media.
The interview with Miriam and Ashok Varadkar was recorded for RTÉ News to coincide with their son’s election as Taoiseach.
While a shorter version of the interview was aired by the State broadcaster this week, an unedited recording was available on the online RTÉ Player.
Near the end of the interview, Ms Varadkar is asked by RTÉ’s Conor McMorrow if she believes the press is “tough” on her son.
“No, no, so far they’ve been pretty kind to him I think, but it could turn nasty sometimes I think,” she replies.
An unidentified third voice off-camera asks: “Can we do that again?” to which Ms Varadkar replies: “What do you want me to say, the media are lovely?”
The voice off-camera responds: “I was just going to suggest that maybe if you could say: ‘He’s always very good at dealing with the media.’ ”
The man further suggests that Ms Varadkar should say: “He’s able to manage the media very well.”
Ms Varadkar then tells Mr McMorrow: “I think he manages the media pretty well, and they are kind to him I suppose.”
The interview was removed from the RTÉ Player, despite the site previously stating it would be available for viewing for the weekend.
A spokesperson for RTÉ declined to identify the third party, but denied any suggestion that the interjection was because the broadcaster deemed Ms Varadkar’s comments unacceptable.
“The interview with Mr and Mrs Varadkar was a human interest one and, as the couple had never done a major television interview before, they asked to have someone they knew present while it was being recorded,” the spokesperson said.
Suggestions that Ms Varadkar was being ‘coached’ in the interview were rejected.
“RTÉ does not have any control over interruptions while an interview is being recorded,” the spokesperson said. “There was no attempt to influence what RTÉ broadcast subsequently. As would be common practice, RTÉ recorded a long interview which was cut to a shorter duration.
“An edited version of the interview which did not feature any amended remarks was broadcast on a special news programme, the Six One News bulletin and an online article on Wednesday. A raw unedited version was published online in error and has since been removed.”
A Fine Gael spokesperson did not name the man heard on the footage, but said he was a member of the Taoiseach’s staff, adding that Mr Varadkar’s parents “agreed to the interview on condition that assistance would be provided to them by a member of his staff”.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner