Exclusive: Fine Gael snubs Vincent Browne's TV3 General Election debates
FINE Gael has dramatically refused to take part in the live TV3 general election debates which were scheduled to be chaired by controversial broadcaster Vincent Browne.
Independent.ie can reveal that the party has refused to allow of any of its candidates to take part in the debates in what has come as a major blow to the broadcaster.
Fine Gael headquarters formally wrote to its TDs and senators this evening informing them of the decision.
It’s understood that party bosses were extremely frustrated after TV3 did not respond to their requests for running orders, schedules and details of audience participation.
The first debate was due to take in Wicklow this Friday and was set to be followed by weekly debates in other constituencies across the country.
A spokesman for Fine Gael confirmed that none of the party’s election candidates will participate in the programme, titled ‘The People’s Debate’.
“Members of the Fine Gael parliamentary party are always very willing to appear on media on an ongoing basis to discuss and debate the issues of the day,” he told independent.ie.
“We are 15 months away from an election and our focus now is to to work relentlessly to fulfil the mandate given to us by the people to secure Ireland's recovery, and in the process, ensure that every citizen in the country feels this recovery in their daily lives.”
Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has consistently refused to appear on the programme ever since Mr Browne joked that he should go into a dark room with a gun and a bottle of whiskey.
A TV3 spokeswoman has said the station is “disappointed” at the decision by Fine Gael.
"The People's Debate series of programmes from each of the general election constituencies is a major undertaking in Public Service Broadcasting by TV3, Ireland's independent national Public Service TV station,” she told independent.ie.
“The programme has been advised by the Fine Gael Press Director and the Government Press Secretary that their party members will not engage in these important programmes because 'there is no election'. and because 'it would not be appreciated by the public when the government still has a major job of work to do'.
"TV3 is merely trying to provide an important public service for its viewers, at major cost, by highlighting constituency issues and by allowing members of the public have their say by engaging in debate with public representatives and would-be candidates from all parties in the run up to the general election campaign.
"A full programme format has been sent to all parties with a detailed breakdown of how the programme will be devised and operated. To say other otherwise is incorrect. TV3 is disappointed that this valuable opportunity to convey their political message to our viewers has been turned down by Fine Gael. "