Leah Farrell
Mairéad Tóibín

Aontú launches legal action over 'exclusion' from RTÉ's by-election debates

RTÉ is hosting two Dublin Bay South by-election debates on Sunday and Monday.

AONTÚ IS TAKING legal proceedings against RTÉ over its candidate’s alleged “exclusion” from two upcoming Dublin Bay South by-election debates.

Candidate Mairéad Tóibín said in a statement this evening that her party is launching High Court proceedings against the national broadcaster.

Tóibín said the decision to only include candidates across seven political parties was “incredibly arbitrary”.

The first debate, hosted by Áine Lawlor, will see candidates from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, the Green Party, the Social Democrats and Solidarity-People Before Profit face off on Sunday 4 July at midday on RTÉ One.

Other candidates will be represented by “pre-recorded clips or in-studio graphic presentation”. 

Claire Byrne will lead the second debate during her RTÉ Radio 1 show on Monday, featuring five of the candidates from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour, and the Green Party. 

Other candidates will be represented during this debate by prerecorded clips or a voice-over listing of candidates. 

RTÉ’s election steering group said the broadcaster is following past practice and limiting the number of candidates live in the studio to facilitate a “meaningful debate”.

The group’s decision is guided by a number of factors:

  • Past electoral performance in that constituency (2020 General Election result)
  • The fact that the debates are for a by-election and not a national contest
  • The genre of the hosting programme 
  • The past decision of courts
  • A 2019 ruling by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI)

The election steering group’s full debate compliance guidelines can be read here.

A spokesperson for RTÉ said it would not be commenting on the matter further. 

Tóibín said her party is calling on RTÉ’s senior management to allow her to partake “even at this late stage to commit to balance, diversity and democratic fairness for all elected political parties in Ireland”.