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General Election 2015: David Cameron queries absence of Northern Ireland parties from TV debates

Talking point: Cameron says Northern Ireland parties should not be excluded from TV debate
Talking point: Cameron says Northern Ireland parties should not be excluded from TV debate

By Noel McAdam

David Cameron has given his backing to Northern Ireland parties being included in the national General Election broadcast debates.

The Prime Minister voiced his surprise that the DUP, Sinn Fein and other parties here had been left out of the broadcasters' latest proposals.

It was Mr Cameron's insistence that the Green Party should be involved in the programmes which first led to the revised format and the on-going current controversy - although critics viewed his stance as having more to do with his own desire to avoid the debates.

And now with only 100 days left until the May poll, Mr Cameron still refused to confirm whether he will participate, although he said that "good progress" has been made.

In their revised proposals, broadcasters have invited the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, as well as the Green Party, to take part in two seven-leader debates while also proposing head-to-heads involving only Mr Cameron and his Labour counterpart Ed Miliband.

"They have actually come up with rather more minor parties than I had in mind but I am sure they have thought it all through and they know what they are doing," the Prime Minister said.

"I don't quite see why Northern Ireland seems to be missing out because as far as I am concerned that is as an important a part of the United Kingodom as Wales or Scotland."

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds responded: "The fact that the Prime Minister has recognised this and has not confirmed that he will be taking part adds considerable weight to our position.

"Our position is fair, logical and reasonable. We have more votes and seats than Plaid Cymru for example and to exclude the DUP is indefensible.

"We will continue to fight this case."

Mr Cameron also added: "I want to take part. They (the broadcasters) needed to do the minor party thing and they have certainly done that."

The DUP and other parties in Northern Ireland have warned of potential legal action if they are excluded from the televised clashes.

The broadcasters have said the debates will go ahead regardless of whether individual leaders turn up or not.

Read more:

Northern Ireland politics returning to 'divide and conquer' ahead of 2015 election 

General Election 2015: Curse of trophy politics looms large as parties try to motivate tribal voters  

Vote finally due on flying of Union flag at Stormont  

Unionist bid to scrap John O'Dowd's Irish-medium school fails 

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