'Inappropriate and disrespectful' - Sinn Féin closes down WhatsApp group during presidential debate over President Higgins abuse
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'Inappropriate and disrespectful' - Sinn Féin closes down WhatsApp group during presidential debate over President Higgins abuse

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins was the subject of 'inappropriate and disrespectful' comments during Saturday's radio presidential debate.

All six presidential candidates gathered in the studio at RTE Radio 1 where they were questioned on a number of issues by presenter Cormac O hEadra.

During the debate, messages appeared on a Sinn Fein WhatsApp group that appeared to be derogatory towards President Higgins.

According to the Irish Daily Star, one of the messages labelled President Higgins a 'leprechaun' and another said he required a "booster seat".

Sinn Fein has since closed down the group and a spokesperson described the messages as "both inappropriate and disrespectful".

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"Sinn Féin has clear social media guidelines and this behaviour is in breach of those guidelines," added the spokesperson.

"The WhatsApp group has been shut down and the members involved will be contacted to account for this breach."

The debate itself focused on spending in the Áras, with President Higgins facing a series of questions on the costs of running the Áras during his Presidency.

Fellow candidate Peter Casey asked the incumbent Mr Higgins if his costs included dog grooming services for his pets Sioda and Brod.

The other candidates also questioned President Higgins on his travel expenses.

The President said he was always open to being transparent with regard to his expenditure.

He said: "It's appropriate that we would have better procedures and I haven't the slightest difficulty with full compliance."

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A televised debate will take place tonight at 9.35pm on RTE 1′s Claire Byrne Live between four of the candidates: Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ni Riada and Peter Casey.

President Higgins and Sean Gallagher have declined to attend.