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SDLP writes to RTÉ over 'frustration and dismay' at exclusion from united Ireland discussion

Matthew O’Toole MLA said ‘speaker after speaker’ cited the party’s founders.

Last night's Claire Byrne Live studio.
Last night's Claire Byrne Live studio.
Image: Twitter/ClaireByrneLive

AN SDLP MLA has written to RTÉ’s management outlining the party’s “frustration and dismay” and not being represented at yesterday’s Claire Byrne Live debate on a United Ireland. 

Matthew O’Toole has said that “speaker after speaker” during the discussion cited or directly quoted John Hume and Seamus Mallon, the late former leader and deputy leader of the party. 

The RTÉ programme featured a host of politicians from north and south including the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and the Alliance Party. 

As well as party leader Mary Lou McDonald, Tyrone singer Niamh McElduff was also introduced as a Sinn Féin member. 

DUP MP Gregory Campbell was also featured on the programme, as was former Fine Gael leader John Bruton and various others from non-political perspectives. 

In his letter to director general of RTÉ Dee Forbes, O’Toole praised the “breadth of the guests on the programme” which included “a diversity of unionist and non-constitutionally aligned experiences and perspectives”. 

Within that context, he said he was dismayed by what he said was the decision to “exclude the voice of the SDLP”. 

“We are deeply proud of the immense moral, political and intellectual leadership of Hume, Mallon and other SDLP figures in shaping the Ireland of today. But we are impatient to be part of a debate on where this island goes next, indeed we are a critical part of it,” he says. 

To imply that one party represents all of northern nationalism, and another party represents all of the progressive middle ground, is fundamentally wrong and we won’t let it stand. 

O’Toole added that his party had made contact with the programme “on multiple occasions” over the weekend to seek to be represented and had spoke to the deputy editor of the programme yesterday.  

He said “it was acknowledged that our participation could have been sought but we were not contacted again”. 

As well as Forbes, O’Toole’s letter was sent to RTÉ’s head of news Jon Williams and managing editor of current affairs David Nally. 

Responding to The Journal, an RTÉ spokesperson said that it had received the letter and “will be replying directly to the SDLP”.

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Rónán Duffy

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