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'He probably should have done it': Kenny's TV debate refusal divides politicians

While Minister Pat Rabbitte said it was his view that Enda Kenny should have debated abolition, Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan insisted that the Taoiseach engaged “up and down the country”.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER PAT Rabbitte has admitted that the Taoiseach “probably should have done” a television debate during the Seanad referendum campaign but others were not as certain this morning.

Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan said this morning he did not agree with Rabbitte and insisted there were “many reasons why people voted No”.

Enda Kenny’s refusal to take part in TV debates on RTÉ and TV3 in the last week of the campaign is seen as one of the reasons why the government loss the referendum to abolish the upper house.

Speaking on The Week in Politics yesterday, Rabbitte said that though Kenny debated the issue in the Dáil it was his view that he should have participated in TV debates.

“I think my own view is that he probably should have done it,” Rabbitte told the programme.

Former minister and Reform Alliance TD Lucinda Creighton said that not debating was “a matter for Enda” but it was her view that if you are passionate about something you argue for it.

“If I were in those shoes I certainly would have been out debating it,” she told Newstalk’s Breakfast programme.

RTÉ quotes Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy as saying it was a mistake for Kenny not to debate the issue during the campaign.

‘Absolute correct decision’

But on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Flanagan said: “I was with the Taoiseach for a full day at the ploughing championships, the matter was discussed, the Taoiseach was there, he debated with anybody.”

He insisted that Kenny “did engage up and down the country” and in the Dáil and said he did not agree with Rabbitte’s view.

He pointed to the assertion by Fine Gael throughout the campaign that abolition would save €20 million a year as being “more controversial”.

“I am not convinced that it was the best argument to put forward,” he said at it was a “bone of contention” throughout the campaign.”

In the immediate aftermath of referendum defeat, Fine Gael’s director of elections Richard Bruton said that the decision for Kenny not to debate was “absolutely the correct decision”:

Read: Jigsaws, ‘The Beatles’ and €20m: Fine Gaelers rue ‘dreadful’ Seanad abolition campaign

Taoiseach defends debate decision: ‘I answered questions here, there and everywhere’

‘It went down badly on the doorstep’: Taoiseach’s decision not to debate criticised

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Hugh O'Connell

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