'Malicious' Claims To Push Dana Out Of Race?

The seven Irish Presidential candidates have last night taken part in their third TV debate with independent candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon taking the spotlight this time - to deny "false" allegations made against her family - and to hint she may withdraw if the issue escalates.

During the debate aired on RTE's Prime Time Tonight Ms Scallon said that it had been brought to her attention that new allegations of "a most untrue, malicious and vile nature" had been leveled against a family member.

She declared a wish not to 'give in to malicious intent', but that she has expressed an intention to pull out of the race if more allegations are made.

The announcement made toward the end of the debate left heads spinning when the independent candidate read from a prepared statement and refused to go into detail about the allegations.

The debate's host Miriam O'Callaghan pressed Ms Scallon about the bizarre statement but she would only go as far to say attempts were being made to "implicate her and destroy her good character".

It is understood that the statement followed a possible story that newspapers had got hold of, but for now it seems the story will not be published for legal reasons.

Ms Scallon said: "Let it be known that lawyers have already been instructed to forensically investigate a particular communication disseminating this vile and false accusation.

"We have now been advised that all possible lines of enquiry are being pursued with prosecution authorities in the United States.

"May I assure the Irish people that I will leave no stone unturned to expose the malicious intent at the heart of these untrue allegations."

Ms Scallon's campaign had previously been rocked by reports that she applied for and was granted US citizenship in the 1990s.

Trial By Television

Mr McGuinness has claimed that the TV debate for him amounted to "trial by television".

The Sinn Fein candidate said he was upset after being called a murderer and felt the debate was handled badly- and in his words- "totally out of order".

"I was accused of being a murderer. That was wrong," said Mr McGuinness adding that he was then "subject to a show trial on television.

"Miriam went round all the other candidates and asked each and every one of them if I was suitable to be president.

"She didn't ask me if I thought any of them were suitable for the President of Ireland."

Mr McGuinness' IRA past came under scrutiny again as the debate turned to issues of faith, with the debate's host, Ms O'Callaghan, asking him how he squared his religious beliefs with having been "involved in the murder of so many people".

McGuinness has denied a mounting argument between himself and the debate's host but he admitted he demanded a one on one meeting with Ms O'Callaghan after the show.

He said: "It was low key with no raised voices."

The Debate

The debate itself focused on Presidential power and other issues.

Along with Dana and McGuinness independents Mary Davis, Seán Gallagher and David Norris, Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell and Labour’s Michael D Higgins took part in the debate.

Ms Davis and Mr Mitchell disagreed about the role of the Presidency after candidates were asked to express an opinion on whether the role is a political one.

The Fine Gael candidate said anyone who does not think it is a political role misunderstands the position, telling Ms Davis that she belongs in that category.

Mr Higgins said there is "room for confusion" in the powers of the President, and said the President's discretionary powers could be open to legal interpretation.

The race For Aras continues.


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