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Northern Ireland leaders to do battle in final televised debate

Northern Ireland’s party leaders will make a final pitch for votes through the TV screens tonight, with a televised debate on BBC1.

The programme, which airs from 9pm, will feature Peter Robinson (DUP), Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein), Margaret Ritchie (SDLP) and Sir Reg Empey (Conservatives and Unionists).

They will face questions from an invited audience less than 36 hours before polls open.

Controversially, the TUV, Alliance and Green parties will not be involved, but will take part in a follow-up BBC Newsline show at 10.30pm on BBC1.

Mark Carruthers, presenter of the NI Leaders' Debate, said: “Tonight's debate is shaping up to be a great piece of television — and an important part of the election campaign locally. It's clear from the public response to the television debates across the water that there's a huge appetite for this kind of set-piece television.

“We certainly want to make sure the party leaders really do debate with each other and engage with the members of our studio audience and give voters a clear understanding of the key election issues.

“And, of course, the fact that our Leaders' Debate is happening just 36 hours before the polls open means that the stakes are really high for the politicians. It will have a real sense of an event and it should be a fascinating watch.”

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The debate will also be broadcast simultaneously on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC NI News Online, on the BBC News Channel at 11.30pm and next day on the BBC iPlayer.

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