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Peter Robinson's outrage over TV debates: Northern Ireland the only UK region excluded on BBC and ITV

By Joe Churcher

First Minister Peter Robinson has blasted the BBC and ITV after broadcasters drew up plans that exclude the DUP from any national TV debates before the general election.

Scottish and Welsh nationalists will be able to make their pitch on-screen, leaving Northern Ireland as the only UK region unrepresented.

An angry Mr Robinson said he will write to the BBC and ITV demanding an explanation about why Northern Ireland was being excluded from the national debate. Mr Robinson, who is no longer an MP, said the decision defied "logic and credibility".

"As soon as they start moving around with the various options, it becomes more and more incredible that if they are going to have a list of party leaders that they would bring seven parties in, but not the party that is the fourth largest in Westminster," he said.

If it holds its eight MPs' seats, the DUP could play a key role in a hung parliament. Some commentators have noted how the Prime Minister appeared to be trying to woo the party last year.

DUP deputy leader, North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, added: "It is ludicrous to exclude us when parties with fewer seats and fewer votes are being included."

Broadcasters have drawn up a revised format proposal which pitches seven politicians against each another in two debates - the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, Ukip, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.

The change appeared designed to overcome the Prime Minister's refusal to take part in any debate that included Ukip's Nigel Farage but not Natalie Bennett of the Green Party.

Asked if the 7-7-2 format would secure the participation of Mr Cameron - whom rivals accuse of seeking to avoid the debates happening - a Tory source said: "Further discussions are planned and we will obviously look at any new proposals presented by broadcasters."

The Lib Dems said they remained opposed to their exclusion from a third debate which would see Mr Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband go head to head, insisting they must be allowed to "defend our record" as a party of government.

Read more:

Cameron accused of trying to dodge TV election debate 

Greens 'must be invited' to debates 

PM 'running scared of TV debates'

George Osborne backs PM's multi-party debate call  

TUV is not a 'major' party, says media regulator Ofcom

First Minister open to Labour deal 

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