Breda won't debate Panti before vote
Published 10/05/2015 | 02:30
Prominent No campaigner Breda O'Brien now says she will not debate Rory O'Neill (aka Panti Bliss) before the marriage referendum, citing two different reasons.
Just weeks after throwing down the gauntlet to Panti in an interview with this newspaper, Ms O'Brien told the Sunday Independent that she had been struck down with a "very bad case of bronchitis".
She also stated before the referendum was not the "right time." She said: "I'm absolutely willing to have a debate, or preferably a conversation with Rory at the right time and the right place. But I don't believe now is the right time because it will only distract from the referendum campaign and the proposed massive constitutional change. Why do I say that? There was a deluge of offers from media outlets offering to host a debate. However, none of them showed the slightest interest in looking at the systematic removal of No posters throughout the country, or at the worrying intervention of An Garda Siochana apparently advocating a Yes vote.
"There was no interest in investigating the distorting effect of millions of Atlantic Philanthropy dollars given to only one side of the debate for nearly a decade, with the aim of securing same-sex marriage. It made me wonder whether programme makers were seriously interested in informing the Irish public or simply interested in boosting ratings."
However, when contacted, Larry Masterson, producer of The Saturday Night Show, the first show to contact both parties, said no parameters whatsoever had been discussed when Ms O'Brien said no to the debate.
He said: "We told Breda we would give her an equal time of four to five minutes for each side. There would be silence throughout and that the audience would be split fairly 50/50. There was no discussion of parameters but I would be happy to sit down and discuss anything she would like, even at this late stage. We are making ourselves available to her. In her allotted time she is also free to discuss any issue she wants. She can dedicate it all to talking about the gardai advocating a Yes vote or the removal of No posters, if she wants. We are still available this week." He added: "We rang Rory and within minutes he got back and said he would do it."
Mr Masterson also said Ms O'Brien told him she had a chest infection, which would hinder her availability for a debate.
This weekend Mr O'Neill said he had been approached by "every TV and radio station in the country" and said he was ready to debate with Ms O'Brien "if she wants to".
But Ms O'Brien yesterday told the Sunday Independent: "The point is that no journalist has undertaken to investigate any of the areas I spoke about. Offering me time to make the points in a debate with Panti hardly counts as investigative journalism undertaken by the Irish media into areas of grave concern for Irish democracy."