Saturday 24 March 2018

RTE chief in Tweetgate is scapegoat for scandal -- pals

THE man leading RTE current affairs during Tweetgate had no direct access to Pat Kenny during the Frontline debate.

Supporters of Ken O'Shea, who has temporarily stepped aside over another controversy -- on Prime Time Investigates -- claim he is being made a scapegoat in the Frontline furore.

Those close to the Cork man say that he is the victim of a political agenda, which is being stoked by Fianna Fail.

A senior RTE source said that to blame Mr O'Shea for the latest scandal to hit RTE "is grossly unfair" and he is a victim of "a Fianna Fail agenda, pure and simple".

"Ken is totally aware that there are a lot of stories out there, and I believe that Fianna Fail minions are behind a lot of these stories," he said.

The Herald has learned from a programme insider that Mr O'Shea, while in overall charge of the Frontline show during the presidential debate, did not come into contact with Pat Kenny on the night.


"Ken had no access to Pat Kenny, and therefore how could it have been him who approved the bogus tweet about Sean Gallagher?" asked the source.

The point being made appears to be that while some fingers are pointing directly at Mr O'Shea for authorising the bogus tweet, his side is insisting that is not the case and he was merely responsible through "the chain of command".

Mr O'Shea has stood aside from his role in the wake of the Fr Kevin Reynolds scandal, in which Prime Time Investigates wrongly claimed the priest fathered a child.

They also say that Fianna Fail has had it in for Mr O'Shea and RTE current affairs in general, lately fuelled by recent comments from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who has officially complained to RTE about their treatment of the party on current affairs programming.

In a recent interview with the Herald, Mr Martin said: "We did work on Prime Time. It was a detailed grid studying eight months either side of the General Election. What came out clearly on that is that we were unrepresented.

"The public sector broadcaster has to be balanced. Now the Labour Party would not have been treated in the same way, I would suggest, if they were one of the opposition parties."

However, despite submitting their study to RTE bosses several months ago, Fianna Fail has still not received a reply.

During the Frontline debate last October on the Monday before the presidential election, Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness claimed Sean Gallagher had called to a businessman's house to collect a €5,000 cheque for Fianna Fail.

A tweet was posted claiming that "the man that Gallagher took the cheque from will be at a press conference tomorrow".

Meanwhile, RTE broadcaster Aonghus McAnally has welcomed plans to take a full editorial review of Frontline after the Twittergate scandal.

The radio producer admitted that although times are now "difficult" at the station, he believed that RTE should have followed correct procedure.


Yesterday Miriam O'Callaghan admitted to the Herald that morale at RTE had been "crushed" since the scandal.

"It's a really, really difficult time within the organisation. I'm there nearly 20 years and I've never known such a difficult time," she said.

But Mr McAnally, who is the series producer of Derek Mooney's radio show, The Mooney Show, said the situation had reminded RTE how important it was to stick to procedures.

And he said he would not have let the tweet go through on his show, saying he questioned everything.


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