Belfast Telegraph

Martin 'cannot dictate on debate'

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin is in no position to dictate about television debates, Fine Gael's Enda Kenny has claimed.

In the opening salvos of the election campaign, Mr Kenny was accused of running scared after shying away from a series of live three-way leadership clashes against Mr Martin and Labour's Eamon Gilmore.

But Sinn Fein - Fianna Fail's biggest rivals according to opinion polls - turned the tables on Mr Martin, claiming he has most to fear from the prime-time showdowns.

The Fine Gael chief - bookies' favourite to become Taoiseach - warned no party should be excluded and called for a five-way debate with Sinn Fein and the Greens.

"Micheal Martin in his first announcement wants to exclude people from debate," Mr Kenny said.

"It seems to me as if the new Fianna Fail leader wants to dictate the trend of this general election. He's in no position to dictate anything."

Mr Gilmore declared his hand immediately after the proposals and accepted an invite to debate.

Mr Martin said he was amazed at Mr Kenny's reluctance to go head-to-head on a series of television debates, possibly RTE, TV3, Sky and one match up in Irish on TG4.

"Remember it was Enda who said some time ago actually that he was not worried about how many debates and who would participate," the former foreign affairs minister said.

"I think he should not avoid it. He should come up front and face myself and Eamon Gilmore on debates."

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