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Micheal Martin hits out at 'absurd' Kenny TV plan

ENDA Kenny's plans for a five-way TV debate have been slammed as "frankly absurd" by the new Fianna Fail boss.

Fine Gael's leader remained on the back foot today as pressure mounted for him to concede to a series of pre-election debates.

All the main television stations including Sky News have now outlined their proposals to the political parties -- but it is unclear how many debates will take place and in what format.

Mr Kenny has said that he will only agree to a head-to-head involving five party leaders at a "neutral setting" with a neutral chairman. He said that any broadcaster should be allowed to pick up the feed and print media could also attend.

However, his would-be coalition partners in Labour have accused Mr Kenny of being a chicken. And Micheal Martin says he is "genuinely amazed by the position taken by Fine Gael on this".

Addressing a Fianna Fail selection convention in Sligo last night, Mr Martin said: "They are the ones who called for a new type of politics and signalled a willingness to have a real engagement between the main parties.

"The proposal they released to the media earlier tonight is frankly absurd. It would actually mean that the leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would speak for less time than in any previous election."

He said that he was happy to agree to an application from Sky News for a five-way debate but also wanted separate ones for RTE, TV3 and TG4.

Mr Martin was responding to comments from Mr Kenny who insists "all the leaders are going to be involved".


The Green Party is backing the Fine Gael stance but Sinn Fein has been noticeably quiet in the wake of criticism of Gerry Adam's grasp of the economy.

Sky's new interest in Irish politics was confirmed last night as they promised to beam a debate across the world.

The Herald understands that in recent days the station representatives meet Fine Gael's PR guru Mark Mortell, Labour's director of elections Ruairi Quinn and a backroom team from Fianna Fail.

In a follow-up letter to party leaders, executive editor Chris Birkett said the debate would be 90 minutes long during the evening prime time and filmed at an "iconic location" in Dublin.

They predict that under the chairmanship of Adam Boulton it would attract an audience of 350,000 in Ireland as well as viewers in Britain, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia.