28/01/2011

Kenny's Debate Dodge 'Bizzare'

Pressure is mounting on the leader of the Fine Gael party to agree to live television debates in the run up to the election.

Yesterday, the new leader of Fianna Fail, Michael Martin, called for a three way debate between his party, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. However, in a surprise move, Fine Gael's Enda Kenny said he would not agree to the debates unless it included the five main parties, with Sinn Fein and the Greens.

Calling Mr Kenny’s statement on election debates "bizarre", Fianna Fail Chief Whip John Curran said that just four months ago Mr Kenny had "enjoyed lots of headlines" saying that it didn’t matter to him whether the leaders’ debate was between two, three, or four people, or where it took place.

"However, on the eve of one of the most important election campaigns in the history of the State, Deputy Kenny has decided that the Irish people should not be given the serious and substantial debates that they want and deserve."

Mr Curran added that the argument that he will be too busy canvassing was "phoney" and an insult to people’s intelligence.

"The fact that it took his handlers a full 18 hours to come up with it gives a good sense of the concern within the Fine Gael party at the capacity of its Leader to engage in serious debate and stand before the Irish people on his own two feet.”

Labour's Ciarán Lynch added to the calls, saying that the debates are about who will be the next Taoiseach and that Labour has been urging agreement on such a set of debates for almost a year.

"For the sake of democracy, it is vital that the three parties contending to lead the government are allowed to set out their and stall and present their ideas and policies to the people," he said.

Mr Lynch added: "In addition, members and supporters are entitled to see what their party leaders intend to do when in Government. It is disappointing that Fine Gael are so fearful of such an arrangement, and people can draw their own conclusions in that regard."

Both leaders of Fianna Fáil and Labour, have said they would be willing to debate with each other in a series of live debates on television and radio in the absence of Mr Kenny.

(DW)

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