A well-known Cork radio personality issued a heartfelt apology on-air this morning after newspaper reports that he is to be referred to gardaí for having committed an alleged sex act on an Aer Lingus flight.
The Irish Examiner reported this morning that 96FM presenter Neil Prendeville was seen to expose himself and masturbate as he sat in his seat on a flight from London Heathrow to Cork on October 9 last.
Mr Prendeville was seated between a male and female passenger at the time, the newspaper said.
He was reportedly stopped in his actions by Aer Lingus flight staff, who have since compiled a report on the incident.
The airline's security head has since indicated a formal complaint will be made to gardaí, according to The Irish Examiner.
This morning Mr Prendeville addressed the allegations, confirming that he had been on the flight, having been invited to London to speak at a conference.
The popular presenter however insisted he had no recall of the alleged incident, having taken painkillers for a neck injury prior to boarding the 10.15pm flight as well as having imbibed alcohol while in London.
"If the reports in the Examiner are true," he said on 96FM, "and I can't deny that they are not, because I just don't recall, I would like to take the opportunity to offer my deepest apologies to the passengers on the plane, to the flight personnel, to my family… to my employers and my work colleagues and to all of the people of Cork.
"I apologise unreservedly to all concerned."
Describing the incident as "a terrible personal experience", Mr Prendeville advised others not to mix painkillers and alcohol.
He indicated he would be taking some "breathing space" in light of the incident.
Mr Prendeville's daily talk show is the most listened-to programme on Irish local radio with 100,000 listeners each day.
Solicitor and friend Gerald Kean said: “His family, friends and colleagues are 100% behind him. Neil is one of my dearest friends and this is totally out character. He has an unblemished record. He cannot deny that this happened because he simply cannot remember.”
Mr Kean said Mr Prendeville did want to return to work at some stage but that it had not been decided how long of a break he would take.
Prior to the incident, Mr Prendeville had spent the day in London as a guest of the Cork Convention Bureau (CCB).
Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Michael O’Connell, Cork County Mayor Jim Daly and CCB chairman Seamus Heaney led the delegation.
Mr Prendeville was one of a number of guests of the CCB who were entertained, prior to the flight, at celebrity chef Richard Corrigan’s Bentley’s Restaurant.
Since the incident, Mr Prendeville left a voice message on the telephone of the woman who was sitting beside him on the flight.
He apologised and said he was “shocked and horrified” when he was told about the incident, of which he had no recollection.
Representatives of 96FM had no comment to make this morning, but stand-in presenter Colm Moore offered the support of staff on-air and expressed hope that Mr Prendeville would be back on air soon.