RTE unjust to exclude Sinn Fein from leaders’ debate

Peter Casey has heavily criticised RTÉ’s “unjust decision” to exclude Mary Lou McDonald from tonight’s televised leaders’ debate.

Pointing out that Sinn Fein (24%) is ahead of Fine Gael (21%) and level with Fianna Fáil (24%) in the latest Red C opinion poll, Mr Casey said the leader of any political party with over 18-20% should be automatically included in such a vital debate.

“RTÉ is showing a bias against Sinn Féin by not inviting Mary Lou McDonald to participate in these debates because her party – despite what Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin are saying about refusing to deal with Sinn Féin – could potentially have a huge influence on the formation of the 33rd Dáil,” Mr Casey said.

“She is the leader of the third largest party – and, I might add, the only female leader of a major party – in the country at the moment and to exclude her is nothing short of censorship. It also adds legs to the theory that certain powers-that-be in RTE have has a strong bias towards Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.”

He added:“The Fianna Fáil leader claims he won’t go into coalition with Sinn Féin, but I suspect he will deal with them if these current polls accurately reflect who the electorate actually want to be their voice in the Dáil. I could conceivably foresee Mary Lou McDonald becoming the next Tánaiste.”

The Donegal businessman said he anticipates the RTE debate is going to be a dual affair without Ms McDonald’s involvement, judging by how the recent head-to-head went between Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar.

“The last debate was too cosy – it felt like two brothers mock fighting and, on occasion, fawning over each other. Why didn’t Micheál Martin go on the attack when Pat Kenny brought up Dara Murphy double-jobbing controversy?”

“I’m disappointed that the Fianna Fáil leader himself didn’t raise any concerns about it prior to it becoming a news story when you take into account they are both from the Rebel County. It feels like he turned a blind eye to it all for fear of it collapsing the government.”