Pat Kenny has hit back at criticism from Sean Gallagher by accusing him of “seeking solace” for his failed presidential bid through a tweet read out during The Frontline debate.
Abuse survivors have also criticised Mr Gallagher, who compared his treatment by RTÉ to how the Catholic Church handled sex abuse allegations in the early 1990s.
Mr Gallagher yesterday made his first public comments since October’s election in an interview with his former campaign adviser, Jack Murray, at the Media Future 2012 conference in Dublin — organised by Mr Murray.
He accused RTÉ of “arrogance” and “hostility” in its handling of the controversy surrounding a tweet read out during the final debate before the election, hosted by Mr Kenny.
The tweet resulted in Mr Gallagher admitting he may have collected a donation for Fianna Fáil from a convicted fuel smuggler in Louth in 2006.
Now looking for a job or to set up a business, Mr Gallagher said there was “no contriteness, no apology” from RTÉ and that Mr Kenny “hasn’t made contact with me since that time”.
Without revealing who he was referring to, Mr Gallagher said: “Many of the senior people in RTÉ — household names — have contacted me since then to say they’re horrified by The Frontline programme and that they want to make it clear to me that they were distancing themselves from anything to do with The Frontline programme or, indeed, Pat Kenny’s programme.”
Mr Kenny said Mr Gallagher was in the radio studio with him the next morning and “he did not raise the issue of the tweet at all”. It was not raised when he appeared on the Six One News that evening or at any time that day, he said.
Mr Kenny described Mr Gallagher’s interview at the conference as “carefully crafted” and said he was “seeking to find some solace from challenging the tweet”.
He said “to point the finger at The Frontline” was to “overlook” other factors.
At the conference Mr Gallagher said: “The similarities and parallels between what happened in RTÉ and their response to Fr Kevin Reynolds and my unfair treatment is like how the Church itself as an institution reacted when it became aware of abuse and wrongdoing in the early 1990s.
“It went into defence mode and the institution shut down to defend itself.”
Andrew Madden, whose book Altar Boy helped expose abuse in the Church, said it was a “daft analogy”.
“Sean Gallagher is not in the position that any victim of clerical abuse was in,” he said. “The main problem in relation to The Frontline programme was not the tweet but his response to it.”
RTÉ stated it has “apologised for its failures” and fully accepted the findings of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, who upheld Mr Gallagher’s complaint about the programme.
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