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Row erupts between Fine Gael and RTÉ amid claim candidate is 'excluded' from debate

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Minister Regina Doherty, Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney arriving for a press conference in Dublin to  announce Mark Durkan and Francis Fitzgerald will run for Fine Gael in the European Elections. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Minister Regina Doherty, Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney arriving for a press conference in Dublin to announce Mark Durkan and Francis Fitzgerald will run for Fine Gael in the European Elections. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Minister Regina Doherty, Former SDLP leader Mark Durkan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tanaiste Simon Coveney arriving for a press conference in Dublin to announce Mark Durkan and Francis Fitzgerald will run for Fine Gael in the European Elections. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

A ROW has erupted between Fine Gael and RTÉ after minister Regina Doherty claimed that one of the party’s candidates has been “excluded” from an upcoming TV debate.

Ms Doherty said her party was not allowed choose which of their two Dublin candidates will appear on Monday night's Claire Byrne Live debate as the criteria set out by RTÉ meant Mark Durkan was disqualified.

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4/3/2019, former SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, who will run for Fine Gael in the European Elections, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.  Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

4/3/2019, former SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, who will run for Fine Gael in the European Elections, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

4/3/2019, former SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, who will run for Fine Gael in the European Elections, with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM

Former SDLP leader and Northern Ireland deputy first minister Mr Durkan is running for Fine Gael in the capital alongside former Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The debates are only open to elected MEPs, TDs, councillors and Senators as well as politicians that got more than 5pc of the vote in the most recent European, General, Local or Presidential elections.

Ms Doherty said: "As Director of Elections for Fine Gael I’m disappointed that our national broadcaster dictated who we would put on the airwaves next week."

She added: "I don’t think it’s right that our national broadcaster should have excluded him."

She said Ms Fitzgerald will take part in the debate on Monday but that "RTÉ took that choice away from us".

RTÉ’s managing editor of current affairs David Nally responded to Ms Doherty’s remarks.

He said: “RTÉ current affairs decides who appears on its programmes in the best interests of the viewing public and not anybody else.”

He said that the reason Ms Fitzgerald was selected ahead of Mr Durkan is that RTÉ’s criteria for the debates say that where a party has two candidates in the same constituency, the one that is currently elected will be invited.

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He said: “Frances Fitzgerald is currently elected to the Dáil and Mark Durkan is not currently elected to any body.

“It’s the same reason why we invited Mairead McGuinness and not Maria Walsh,” he added -referring to the Midlands/North-West debate to be broadcast on Tuesday.


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