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Thursday 22 March 2018

Leaders push to fight it out in TV debates

Fionnan Sheahan

JOHN Gormley now wants to be included in the televised leaders' debates at the next general election if Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore gets in the door.

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are opposed to increasing the number of participants in the key head-to-head TV clash between the sitting Taoiseach and alternative Taoiseach.

But in Britain, the leaders of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties all took part last week in the historic leaders' debate ahead of their general election.

Labour is arguing the next general election is a three-horse race and that it wants to lead the next government.

But the Green Party says its leader should also be in the frame. "The Green Party view is they should all be in there. He (Mr Gormley) would expect to be, on the grounds that we are long established in an era of coalition politics. It has been proven the Green Party has had strong influence in Government and people have a right to see and hear our policies," a spokesman said.

Support for the Lib Dems has risen dramatically on foot of the impressive performance of their leader, Nick Clegg, in last week's televised debate.

Following the British example, Mr Gilmore is demanding RTE commit to a series of similar pre-election debates between the leaders of the three main Irish parties.

Labour communications spokesman Liz McManus told her party conference in Galway that RTE must accept the "democratic imperative" to include Mr Gilmore in any future leaders' debates.

"In the interests of fairness and democracy I am now putting it up to RTE to do the right thing," she said.

RTE had not yet given any consideration to the format in which the leaders' debate would be conducted, a spokesman for the broadcaster said.

Fine Gael said it would anticipate the existing format of Taoiseach of the day versus one alternative leader to continue.

"Other party leaders are facilitated by RTE and are given coverage to their relevant support," a spokesman said.

Fianna Fail said it would be happy to see Mr Gilmore replace Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny -- but again only referred to a one-on-one debate.

"This debate is traditionally between the direct choices for Taoiseach.

"If Enda Kenny agrees to serve under Eamon Gilmore as Taoiseach then we'll have no problem," a spokesman said.

Irish Independent

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