Belfast Telegraph

Fine Gael and Labour in debate call

Newly-elected Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has challenged his Fine Gael and Labour counterparts to a series of debates during the General Election campaign.

Mr Martin said he had invited both Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore to take part in a three-way match at the beginning and end of the campaign, along with a series of one-on-one debates throughout the contest.

But he excluded Sinn Fein - who are neck-and-neck with Fianna Fail in the opinion polls - from the challenge.

He said the traditional model of election debates was seriously flawed and must change.

"I have therefore already written to Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore asking them to join with me in agreeing to the most extensive and detailed series of debates yet seen in an Irish election," Mr Martin said.

"Specifically, I have asked them to agree to hold two debates between us three, one at the start of the campaign and one at the end. In addition there would be a series of one-on-one debates between us and a separate debate in the Irish language.

"In the past they have both called for such a series of debates so I hope that agreement can quickly be reached."

Mr Gilmore said he found the debate proposals "acceptable in principle." He wrote to Mr Martin congratulating him.

"As you will be aware I have been urging agreement on such a set of debates for almost a year and we have already had preliminary discussions with RTE and TV3 on this question," Mr Gilmore wrote.

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