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The Leaders Debate – over here

May 5th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Irish Media, Irish Politics

RTE have commenced work on the leaders debates – or well they’ve responded to various interested parties who have contacted RTE.  I’m not sure which parties these are – there has been a lot of talk about the matter while watching the 3 debates in the UK and the Labour Party have called for a three way leaders debate but surely nobody has started talks/queries on it already? Unless FF are being quick of the mark and fear an early election?

As Deaglán de Bréadún reported in Monday’s Irish Times the FF source he spoke with thought it was all very early and there was a tone of ‘sure hadn’t it all worked well as a two hander in previous elections.’

I wonder who the ‘other parties’ to have been in touch with RTE were – other media outlets maybe?  Anyway all the parties have indicated they don’t like Ken O’Shea’s (RTE Editor of Current Affairs) plan so it’s back to square one. Wonder will he end up with more than 76 rules?  Rather him than me… The correspondence sent to all the political parties was left in the henhouse – let the debate about the debates continue!

Various interested parties have contacted RTE in recent days inquiring about our plans for televised political debates in advance of the next general election. In light of this, and recent events in the UK election, it might be helpful to outline our intentions at this point.

RTE has always advocated a comprehensive programme of televised debates in the run-in to a general election, with the emphasis on providing the Irish public with a variety of opportunities to see the party leaders, and others, argue the merits of their respective manifestos.

For instance, in advance of the last general election, RTE proposed a debate between the leaders of all six political parties on Questions & Answers, followed by a four-way debate between the leaders of the smaller political parties on Prime Time, followed by a final debate between the leaders of the two largest parties, also on Prime Time.

In the event, on May 16th, 2007 Prime Time held a leaders’ debate involving Pat Rabbitte, Michael McDowell, Trevor Sargent and Gerry Adams.

On May 17th, Prime Time hosted a debate between Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny.

For the next general election, it is proposed that RTE will, once again, offer three main platforms for the party leaders to speak to the public and debate with each other:

1. The Frontline – Three-way debate featuring the leaders of the three largest parties: FF, FG and Labour. This would happen as close to the start of the campaign as possible.

2. Prime Time – three-way debate featuring the leaders of Labour, Greens, SF. Ideally, this would happen in the middle of the campaign.

3. Prime Time – the final leaders’ debate featuring the leaders of the two largest parties – FF vs. FG. Ideally, this would happen towards the end of the campaign.

We would also propose a debate between the Finance spokespersons of all parties, on The Frontline, at some point in the campaign, given the central role Economic policy will no doubt play in the campaign. The two Frontline debates will offer a unique opportunity for the leaders and Finance spokespersons to speak directly to voters, as a studio audience will be in attendance.

Clearly, all parties involved will want an input into this discussion and we will be happy to facilitate that at the appropriate time.


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