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"Anyone, anywhere": Deputy leaders respond to Mary Hanafin's call for debate

Joan Burton says yes to request for deputy leaders’ debate but Mary White still wants it to be an all-women affair. (Sorry, James Reilly).

Image: Dave Conner via Flickr

WHILE THE ROW over the format of the leaders’ debates for the election campaign is ongoing, Mary Hanafin started a new debate ‘debate’ this morning. She said she would like to see a debate scheduled between the deputy leaders of the main political parties.

Hanafin, deputy leader of Fianna Fail, said she would like to see Labour, Fine Gael and the Greens put forward their deputy leaders for such a debate. She did not mention Sinn Fein, or its deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, in her comments at this morning’s press conference at FF election headquarters in Dublin.

The Green Party’s deputy leader Mary White called for an all-women debate between female representatives of the parties earlier this week. If Hanafin’s proposal was picked up, it would almost be an all-female debate, with James Reilly of Fine Gael the sole man in the line-up.

TheJournal.ie contacted the deputy leaders of Fine Gael, Labour, the Green Party and Sinn Fein to ask if they would be up for a deputy leaders’ debate…

Joan Burton, deputy leader of the Labour Party: Yes

Burton said that, yes, “in theory” she would participate in a debate with “anyone, anywhere”. She said that: “Going by the comments of Mary Hanafin, if a deputy leaders’ debate were to take place, she would participate.”

Mary White, deputy leader of the Green Party: Maybe - but I’d prefer an all-women debate

White said that her preference was still for an all-female debate between women politicians, not necessarily just deputy leaders. She said that she was sticking by her belief that “an all-women debate would be her preference” because “50 per cent of voters are female” and she’d like to see female voices heard. She added: “Maybe there is merit in a debate between the deputy leaders but it would be good to have both”.

James Reilly, deputy leader of Fine Gael: Yes

The Fine Gael party said that it was not going to comment on “every speculation” of who might debate who in the election campaign. However, James Reilly told TheJournal.ie unequivocally that he would be happy to take part in a deputy leaders’ debate. “I have no problem with that,” he said, “It doesn’t bother me at all. I have debated Joan Burton and I would have no problem with a debate (between all the deputy leaders).”

Mary Lou McDonald, deputy leader of Sinn Fein: Yes

McDonald said that she would “absolutely” be up for the challenge of debating Mary Hanafin and the other three deputy leaders she named this morning. She said: “I fully endorse the call for a Deputy Leaders’ debate and look forward to the opportunity of putting Sinn Fein’s strong alternative message before the people. The electorate deserve a fair debate.”

Mary Hanafin wants debate between deputy leaders> Read it here…

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