RTE unjust to exclude Sinn Fein from leaders’ debate

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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.”