Thursday 26 April 2018

'My relationship with FF is more important than my relationship with Miriam O'Callaghan'

Noonan pulled out of RTÉ debate because McGrath was "very upset" about being dropped from RTE debate

Philip Ryan and Kevin Doyle

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he pulled out of a budget debate on RTE's Prime Time because his opposite number in Fianna Fail Michael McGrath was "very upset" about being dropped from the televised debate by the station.

Mr Noonan said he supported Mr McGrath who felt he was being "punished for being responsible" by the station after it decided to choose Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty to take part in the debate.

Mr Noonan said it has always been the practice that the finance minister of the day goes head-to-head with the finance spokesman of the main opposition party on RTE on the night of the budget.

However, this year, RTE wanted Sinn Fein to provide the opposition spokesman despite the party having less TDs than Fianna Fail.

Fianna Fáil Finance spokesman Michael McGrath Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Fianna Fáil Finance spokesman Michael McGrath Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mr Noonan said "his relationship with Fianna Fail is more important than his relationship with Miriam O'Callaghan" on pulling out of Prime Time debate.

However, the minister said Prime Time have instead organised a panel based discussion featuring a number of Government and Opposition politicians rather than a head-to-head debate.

RTE confirmed to Independent.ie that they later agreed to a round table debate involving Mr Noonan and four other politicians, including Mr Doherty and Mr McGrath.

The other panelists on last night's show were Communications Minister Denis Naughten and AAA-PBP’s Ruth Coppinger.

Pearse Doherty had earlier tweeted: “Minister Noonan has pulled out of Prime Time head to head debate with me this evening.”

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