Presidential hopeful Gavin Duffy claims RTÉ is ‘a fan-club for President Higgins’
- Gavin Duffy: ‘It’s a fact’ that President Michael D Higgins ‘dropped the torch on Northern Ireland’
- Presidential hopeful was speaking on issue of a ‘United Ireland’ when he made remarks
- ‘You can’t make a sweeping statement like that’ – Sean O’Rourke says to Gavin Duffy
Presidential hopeful Gavin Duffy has claimed that RTÉ is “a fan-club for President Michael D Higgins”.
In a lively exchange on this morning’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, the businessman told the RTÉ radio programme “it was a fact” that President Michael D Higgins “dropped the torch on Northern Ireland”.
The presidential hopeful was speaking on the issue of a ‘United Ireland’ when he made the remarks.
“I think President McAleese did huge work,” he said.
“I’d have to say our incumbent didn’t follow on that work. Sometimes we dismiss these positions as ceremonial, but the queen just bowing in the Garden of Remembrance did a lot more than a lot of political speeches would have done.
“The ground work in Northern Ireland has not happened in this presidential term like it did with Mary McAleese and her husband Martin.
“That’s just a fact. I know RTÉ is a fan club for the president,” he added, before he was interrupted by broadcaster and journalist Sean O’Rourke.
“Hold it right there, I don’t think you can say that – without backing it up,” Sean O’Rourke said.
Mr Duffy continued; “Well RTÉ paid out a large amount of money, so large they were embarrassed to tell us what it was after the debate in the last election-”
Sean O’Rourke interrupted again; “That has nothing to do with being a fan club of Michael D Higgins, it has everything to do with screwing up a tweet.”
Mr Duffy replied; “Someone in the control room saying ‘we’ve got him’, and that’s evidence-”
Sean O’Rourke continued; “That’s something that was badly screwed up, everyone was deeply embarrassed.
“There was a settlement made. I don’t think you can join the dots there to what you’re saying.”
Mr Duffy asked; “So why is the settlement secret?”
“Because that’s what was agreed in court,” Sean O’Rourke said, “You can’t make a sweeping statement like that, I just had to call a halt to it, challenge it.
“Mary McAleese had a particular background, as did her husband Martin, and they were in a position to use it.”
Mr Duffy interrupted; “President Higgins did, why don’t you just accept he dropped the torch in Northern Ireland?”
Sean O’Rourke said; “That is a very sweeping political statement to make, I will put it to him if he comes in, hopefully next week.”
The broadcaster also challenged the presidential hopeful when he said the country needs a president “with energy” with an upcoming Brexit.
“I know the issues, but let’s come back to the energy. We need a major diplomatic offensive in the UK,” Mr Duffy said.
“You need a president who is in Sheffield doing a talk at a 7am breakfast, doing a local radio interview afterwards, at a mid-morning talk at some conference at 11am, a keynote speech at another conference that afternoon, cocktails at a rotary that evening and an after-dinner speech-”
“Are you trying to make comparisons with the incumbent?” Sean O’Rourke asked.
“You’re making the comparisons, I’m not,” Mr Duffy said,”what I’m saying is we’ve got to look at Ireland and our economy here, Sean, our economy is based on foreign direct investment that uses our country as a gateway to the EU.”
Mr Duffy said he would be ready in the job for “whatever the Taoiseach would direct me to do”.
“I would have the energy because I believe if we don’t get the deal hammered out fairly quickly, our economy will have serious problems, we don’t have room for wobble.”
During the interview, Mr Duffy also said he does not believe AIB should be sold to the vulture funds , he said that he is willing to have a conversation “about a society that is fair, compassionate” and he said he regrets his two driving offences detailed in the media in recent days.
All six presidential candidates will debate live with Cormac OhEadhra on RTÉ Radio 1 this Saturday at 1pm.