Sunday 17 December 2017

Open up leaders' debate to all, urge Greens

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

GREEN PARTY leader John Gormley is insisting that any leaders' debate during the election campaign should be open to all political parties.

Mr Gormley's demand comes a day after Fine Gael's Enda Kenny did a U-turn on the issue, and said he would take on as many as five others in the leaders' debate. Mr Kenny previously said he would only debate with Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Sinn Fein also weighed in yesterday with demands that they too be included. The party's Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain said he would "not countenance" the exclusion of Sinn Fein and the Greens.

The pre-election showdown has traditionally been between the leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael but Labour's strong showing in opinion polls has led Eamon Gilmore to demand a three-way contest.

Labour says the debate should be restricted to those who participate in leaders' questions in the Dail -- Mr Kenny, Mr Gilmore and Mr Cowen -- but a spokesman indicated it could work with more being added. Fianna Fail has not taken a position on the issue.

But Mr Gormley, speaking at the launch of a rainwater harvesting system at St Catherine's School in Dublin, said four or five leaders taking part would be "far better".

"I think in the past the two-horse race has been discriminatory and you've seen that reflected in the results in the final week, smaller parties getting squeezed," he said.

"Now, if you expand it to three parties, all you're making it is a three-horse race and that is still discriminatory. It's far better if all of the candidates present their programmes."

Mr O Caolain said all parties in the Dail must be given the opportunity to debate.

"There is little policy difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and so a two-way debate between those parties would simply give the impression that there is no alternative on offer," the Cavan-Monaghan TD said.

Irish Independent

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