Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin said he is "very happy" that Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald will participate in tonight's televised debate.
Mr Martin will go head-to-head with Taoiseach Leo Vardkar and Ms McDonald after RTÉ yesterday revised their decision to exclude Ms McDonald from the Prime Time leaders' debate following a surge of support in recent polls.
An Ipsos MRBI poll, published yesterday evening by the Irish Times, pushed Sinn Féin into the lead at 25pc, two points ahead of rival party Fianna Fáil, who ranked at 23pc.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael followed behind in third place at 20pc.
Mr Martin said he didn’t take “much notice” of the polls when Fianna Fáil were ahead, and is confident the party will perform better on polling day.
“When polls had us ahead I didn’t take much notice of them.
“We’ll outperform the poll, of that I have no doubt. We’ll do better than what that particular poll is saying we’re at the moment. I think it will energise even more the members on the ground and our candidates in terms of the next week.”
“We’re very happy to take the opportunity to put forward our views. It’s not my first time debating with Sinn Féin, I’ve debated with Sinn Féin on previous occasions in referendums and in general elections,” he said.
“I think if anything, we need more focus on substance and issues, it’s extraordinary really that the first question I think I got on education was on Kerry Radio yesterday.”
He continued: “That’s indicative, everyone is on polls, everybody is on process, but we think there needs to be a greater discussion on the subsistence of policies.”
The poll result has not wavered Mr Martin’s reluctance for Fianna Fáil to go into government with Sinn Féin.
“Sinn Féin have 42 candidates, Fianna Fáil have 84 candidates. Fianna Fáil is the only party that realistically can provide an alternative government to Fine Gael.
“In many of the research this morning, it seems the majority of people out there want Fianna Fáil in a government more than any other party.
“In terms of those they don’t want in government, I think the majority don’t want Fine Gael in government and significant numbers don’t want Sinn Féin in government either.”