18/10/2011

Irish Candidates Prepare For TG4 Debate

The seven Irish Presidential candidates are in preparation for their fourth TV debate during which they will answer questions 'as Gaeilge'; meanwhile a one-on-one debate between the 'front-runners' has been dismissed.

The TG4 debate will be aired this evening but will be filmed in Baile na hAbhainn this morning - subtitles will be added before the debate is screened at 7pm.

Candidates are expected to make their opening and closing statements in Irish but as none of the candidates are fluent in the language they will be allowed to answer the questions in English.

It is expected that Labour candidate Michael D Higgins will have the advantage over his opponents, as he is the most competent Irish speaker in the race.

Meanwhile a call for a head to head debate between Mr Higgins and independent candidate Sean Gallagher- the candidates who are leading the race according to polls- has been rejected.

The idea was firmly ruled out by several contenders amid claims that it would isolate the rest of the field from frontrunners.

The prospect of a head-to-head battle between the pair emerged after a shock opinion poll revealed Mr Higgins had slipped into second place.

Mr Higgins saw an increase of two points in the poll bringing him to 27% but Gallagher saw his support increase by 18 points since the last Red C poll ten days ago and is now on 39%.

Gallagher described the notion of a one on one debate as "unfair" and "underhand" and said it will never happen again.

"Why would we exclude five other candidates?" he said.

"We've been through 12 or 13 debates so far and a few more to go. I feel that would be unfair on the other five candidates."

Joe Costello, Director of Elections for Mr Higgins, said the Labour man was open to the idea of a one-to-one but stressed it is a purely hypothetical prospect.

"Michael D never issued a challenge to a one-to-one debate with anybody but there was a hypothetical suggestion made," he said.

(LB/BMcC)

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