Sunday 21 January 2018

Fiscal Treaty: Enda Kenny comes under pressure from all sides to do TV debate

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Lyndsey Telford and Fiach Kelly

THE Taoiseach has been hit from all sides of the opposition with increased calls to take part in a televised debate on the fiscal treaty.

Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and Independent TDs heaped more pressure on Enda Kenny to argue his support for the deal.

With just over a week until the referendum, the Taoiseach refused to reveal whether he would participate in a live discussion, saying it should not be about boosting politicians' profiles.

"Referenda are matters for the people to make a decision on, they are not about giving profiles to different politicians," he said.

"I have no fear at all of public debate on this issue, but I'm not sure that we should turn this into a crisis situation."

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said it was bizarre that he was willing to give a scripted state-of-the-nation style address on the treaty on Sunday night, but afraid to face down the opposition.

"Wouldn't it be more leaderly as the Taoiseach that you do come into a TV studio and inform the people and leave your policies open to scrutiny?," Mr Adams said.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett accused him of hiding from the issue and echoed Mr Adams' calls to inform the public of all the information in the treaty.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin said the public could not understand the Taoiseach's reluctance to debate the issue.

He asked if he had been approached by RTE to take part in a leader-to-leader showdown.

"What I'm trying to get at here is the need for a genuine political debate," Mr Martin said.

"I think it is the first way to resolve any claims or counter claims about a lack of balance about the way the parties are being treated."

But the Taoiseach said he was unaware of any invitation from the State broadcaster.

Mr Kenny has rejected numerous appeals from TV3 to attend a televised debate against Sinn Fein's Mr Adams.

He had signalled he would not do any show hosted by the station's veteran broadcaster Vincent Browne because of a fall-out between the pair.

Mr Browne then stepped aside as moderator, with TV3 political editor Ursula Halligan taking his place.

But the Taoiseach still refused to accept Mr Adams' challenge.

Mr Kenny will make a televised address on the fiscal treaty referendum on RTE at teatime on Sunday. He was invited on by station chiefs to reply to the ard fheis speech being given by Gerry Adams on Saturday.

The Sinn Fein leader will give the televised keynote address at his party gathering, which is taking place in Killarney this Friday and Saturday.

Mr Kenny will then be given a time slot exactly equal to how long Mr Adams dedicates to the treaty in his speech.

It comes after controversy over Mr Kenny refusing invitations to take part in a televised debate on TV3, but his spokesman insisted that the address did not mean the Taoiseach would not take part in any broadcast debates.

The spokesman initially said there had been no formal or informal approaches or talks with RTE on a live debate -- but added "that is not to say there are not discussions around these issues".

However, he later backtracked and said he had received "numerous requests, including one from RTE" and said he no decision has yet been made on an RTE debate. The confusion was caused by a "genuine mistake", the spokesman added.

Last night TV3 again invited Mr Kenny to take part in a debate.

It also welcomed the fact that Mr Kenny's spokesperson did not rule out a broadcast debate.

"We believe such a debate is an essential response to the level of undecided voters, and we look forward to an early response from An Taoiseach," a spokeswoman said.

Fianna Fail director of elections Timmy Dooley last night called on Mr Kenny to take part in a final leader's debate on RTE, saying "more needs to be done" to engage the high number of undecided voters.

"There has not yet been a major debate, treated as a serious current affairs event, to capture voters' imaginations," Mr Dooley said.

Fine Gael director of elections Simon Coveney last night said it was "not true" that Mr Kenny was running away from debates. "The Taoiseach will make his own decisions about what he says and when he says it, he's speaking on a daily basis in relation to this treaty, there is no issue in relation to the Taoiseach and debates," he said.

Irish Independent

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