Seán Gallagher: ‘‘Tweetgate’ still pains me greatly’

Would-be presidential candidate says 2011 RTÉ incident caused him to doubt himself

 Seán Gallagher has said he believes the RTÉ Frontline programme featuring ‘Tweetgate’ changed the outcome of the 2011 presidential election. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Seán Gallagher has said he believes the RTÉ Frontline programme featuring ‘Tweetgate’ changed the outcome of the 2011 presidential election. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Would-be presidential candidate Seán Gallagher has said he believes the RTÉ Frontline programme featuring “Tweetgate” changed the outcome of the 2011 presidential election.

In an address to members of Leitrim County Council on Monday, the businessman said that on the evening of the 2011 presidential debate chaired by Pat Kenny he had let himself down and had also let down the members of the Leitrim county council that had nominated him.

In his first public comment on the controversy, Mr Gallagher said he had felt compelled “to hold RTÉ accountable”.

Mr Gallagher said that, during the 2011 debate, Sinn Féin candidate Martin McGuinness had accused him of going to a man’s house after a Fianna Fáil fundraiser and asking him for a donation.

The businessman had rejected the allegation but “in an unprecedented event” a false tweet on the issue from a fake account was presented to him by Pat Kenny “as if it were a fact”.

Mr Gallagher said this had given Mr McGuinness an opportunity to repeat the false allegation “in such a dogmatic and confrontational way” that it caused him to “doubt my own memory momentarily”.

“In doing so I accept that to many, it made me appear unconvincing,” Mr Gallagher added.

Mr Gallagher said he was aware that many people who had been planning to vote for him up to that point, “in that moment changed their minds”.

“I wish to say sorry to all those who changed their vote because they lost confidence in me,” he added.

The former Dragon’s Den panellist said that in that moment “many viewers saw me as someone I am not. And that still pains me greatly.”

He said he also wished to apologise to the more than 500,000 people who had come out to vote for him in the election.

‘Not bitter’

Speaking to reporters after his address to councillors, Mr Gallagher denied that he was bitter or angry at RTÉ. He said it was about setting the record straight.

Mr Gallagher said he fully accepts his own “failings” on the night. “I should have stated that night that fundraising is a part of every political party.

“I regret not being more definitive and conclusive in my response to the specific accusation. There are very few of [us] who don’t at some point wish we did things better.

“Mine was a very costly and publicly one.”

He told councillors he was not seeking to replace President Michael D Higgins but to succeed him.

It is expected that members of Leitrim County Council will give Mr Gallagher the nomination at a meeting which has been set for next Monday.