THE government press secretary is under fire following a verbal altercation with a TV3 cameraman in which he is alleged to have said the station was no longer welcome in Government Buildings.
TV3 confirmed it was considering what action to take after the incident last month.
Press secretary Eoghan Ó Neachtain is understood to have approached two cameramen, one from RTÉ and one from TV3, after they had finished prearranged recording. He made it clear that RTÉ was "very welcome" in Government Buildings while TV3 was certainly not, sources indicated.
Ó Neachtain is said to have told the cameraman: "You are not welcome here; TV3 is not welcome here," before angrily turning to re-emphasise his point as he walked away.
Sources have said his conduct was hostile and fervent and led to speculation as to what had sparked the outburst.
Responding to the allegation, the head of government press denied threatening to freeze out the station, saying instead that the comment was directed personally against the cameraman.
Sources in TV3 said there was speculation that the encounter may have been at least partly provoked by recent TV3 political coverage of Cowen's now notorious Morning Ireland interview.
TV3's political editor Ursula Halligan asked the Taoiseach about speculation that he was "drunk or hungover" during the interview, a question which was badly received by both Fianna Fáil and the government.
The channel's director of news, Andrew Hanlon, having been informed of the incident, said the station was now considering how best to deal with the matter.
"This is Eoghan being Eoghan and if that is the way he behaves on the back of how a particular news story is covered, if that was the reason... then Eoghan and the government need to look at how they operate their public relations.
"If that is how you treat a major media outlet then you need to look at yourself and how you conduct yourself. He [the cameraman] gets that kind of abuse for doing his job and it's not on but it's a metaphor for government and for Eoghan Ó Neachtain."
Hanlon stressed that staff at the station conducted themselves in a professional and polite manner, a standard insisted upon by management.
Ó Neachtain denied threatening the channel and said the incident arose after camera crews were asked to leave a meeting being chaired by the Taoiseach, having been allowed in briefly to film.
"When he was being asked to leave the room he started to complain, and saying that he didn't get enough [footage]," he said. "Outside I told him he got the same as everyone else. I said that if that is a problem we can leave him off the list, not TV3."
Ó Neachtain, a former army officer, came to prominence in March 2009 during the "Cowengate" controversy when he personally phoned RTÉ director general Cathal Goan about a news report which he deemed to be disrespectful of the Taoiseach.
RTÉ subsequently issued a controversial apology, although Ó Neachtain said he did not demand this.