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Dublin: 2°C Friday 22 January 2021

Sinn Féin issues legal letter to RTÉ over 'unfair' exclusion from TV leaders' debate

Pearse Doherty said RTÉ’s plan is “simply not fair”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Image: RollingNews.ie

SINN FÉIN IS sending a legal letter to RTÉ calling on the nation broadcaster to reverse its decision not to include party leader Mary Lou McDonald in an upcoming TV debate. 

RTÉ is to hold two live leaders’ debates as part of its TV election coverage, one next week featuring seven party leaders and another the following week featuring the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil only. 

Another live debate on Virgin Media Television between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin is being held tonight. 

Buoyed by two strong opinion poll showings in recent days, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised both broadcasters for limiting the debates to head-to-heads between Martin and the Taoiseach

One Monday night, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll recorded a significant surge in support for Sinn Féin, putting the party on 21% compared to Fianna Fáil at 25% and Fine Gael at 23%. 

Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke programme, McDonald said: “the days of dominance of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are gone – although RTÉ has yet to catch up with that reality.”

McDonald said RTÉ had an additional responsibility over Virgin Media Television because it is the national broadcaster and is funded by the taxpayer. 

The Sinn Féin leader said her party shouldn’t need to seek an injunction against RTÉ to be allowed to take place in its televised leaders’ debate.

Despite this, Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said the party has issued a legal letter to RTÉ.

“Myself and Deputy Eoin Ó Broin have instructed our legal team to issue a legal letter to RTÉ demanding that they reverse their decision to exclude Sinn Féin and other voices from this debate,” Doherty said in a video released by the party. 

“It is simply not fair to have a leaders debate in the mouth of an election which excludes the views of the majority of people across this island.

The reality is these two parties have shared government for the last four years, and we’ve all seen the mess they have made of it. The last time there was a leaders debate limited to two parties was way back in 2007 and RTÉ need to understand that politics has been transformed and people’s opinions have changed over those years.

“So RTÉ needs to do the right thing on behalf of this election but also in relation to the licence payer who fund RTÉ and they need to drop the exclusion of Sinn Féin from this debate,” Doherty added. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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