Gallagher takes court action against RTÉ over presidential debate
Seán Gallagher is taking a High Court action against RTÉ for financial compensation after a controversial television debate held before the 2011 presidential election.
The damages could cover “all potential areas that my client has suffered”, Mr Gallagher’s solicitor, Paul Tweed, said. He would not be more specific about what kind of damages might be involved.
Mr Gallagher, who was leading in the polls before the debate, also wanted RTÉ to declare publicly that the programme was unfair and “seriously damaged” his chances of winning, Mr Tweed said. Mr Gallagher wanted to settle the matter with RTÉ out of court but the broadcaster had denied the claims, Mr Tweed added.
A spokeswoman for RTÉ said it would not make any comment and would not confirm whether it was aware of the legal action. The action centres on RTÉ’s alleged breach of duty of care to carry out the debate in a fair manner. Mr Tweed said he hoped the matter would be before the courts before the summer break, since such an action did not involve a jury.
He said the issue had “seriously prejudiced” Mr Gallagher and had “significantly cost him in ruining his campaign”. He said Mr Gallagher was not financially ruined but that “he would be in a much better position if it hadn’t happened”.
The action was being taken now because RTÉ had failed to admit it had been wrong in broadcasting an unverified tweet during the debate in an internal review published last month, said Mr Tweed. Mr Gallagher was also angered by “provocative comments” by programme presenter Pat Kenny, reported last September, in which he said he and his staff had been vindicated by a Broadcasting Authority of Ireland report, added Mr Tweed.
“My client has been literally left out on a limb and he wants RTÉ to put on the record where they went wrong,” Mr Tweed said yesterday. “These proceedings will be vigorously prosecuted in order to bring this matter to a conclusion,” he said.
The debate took place on October 24th, 2011 – just three days before the presidential vote.
A bogus tweet was read out by Kenny during the programme, purporting to come from the campaign of Sinn Féin candidate Martin McGuinness concerning allegations that Mr Gallagher had collected a fundraising cheque for €5,000 from businessman Hugh Morgan. Mr Gallagher denied he collected the cheque.