Dana criticises "vile and false" accusation against member of her family

Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Presidential hopeful Dana Rosemary Scallon has criticised what she called a “vile and false" accuation against her family, which she said is to appear in unspecified media tomorrow.

"It has come to my attention that yet further allegations, this time of a most untrue, malicious and vile nature, have been levelled against a member of my family," Dana said, adding that lawyers were investigating the accusation, which attempts "to destroy my good character."

The Independent candidate, who made the comments this evening in the third of the series of televised presidential debates, however declined to elaborate on the nature of the allegations.

The comments provided a moment of drama in the closing stages of the RTÉ ‘Prime Time’ debate, but Dana would not give further details despite probing by moderator Miriam O’Callaghan.

Also taking part were independents Mary Davis, Seán Gallagher and David Norris, Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell, Labour’s Michael D Higgins and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin.

Mr McGuinness’ IRA past again came under scrutiny as the debate turned to issues of faith, with Ms O’Callaghan asking him how he squared his religious beliefs with having been “involved in the murder of so many people”.

Meanwhile Ms Davis and Mr Mitchell disagreed about the role of the Presidency after candidates were asked to express an opinion on whether the role is a political one.

The Fine Gael candidate said anyone who does not think it is a political role misunderstands the position, telling Ms Davis that she belongs in that category.

Mr Higgins said there is "room for confusion" in the powers of the President, and said the President's discretionary powers could be open to legal interpretation.

He and Dana also clashed over the oath of allegiance the President must take to assume office, after Labour suggested the line that swears allegiance to Almighty God should be reviewed.

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