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Micheál Martin will face off with Leo Varadkar in a live debate during the last days of campaigning.
head to head

RTÉ to broadcast Martin/Varadkar showdown but Sinn Féin says its exclusion is 'utter joke'

As well as a Prime Time debate for Martin and Varadkar, another Claire Byrne Live debate will feature leaders of multiple parties.

RTÉ IS SET to broadcast two live debates in the run up to the general election, but Sinn Féin has claimed the broadcaster has “fail[ed] to live up to its responsibilities” as one of the debates will feature just Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

The heads of the two largest parties are set to set to clash on Prime Time on 4 February while The Claire Byrne Live Leaders Debate a week earlier will feature the leaders of a number of political parties debate in front of a live audience.

Party leaders will also face Bryan Dobson in a series of interviews to be broadcast at 7pm on RTÉ One throughout the campaign.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have said they would not go into coalition with Sinn Féin after the election, and Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty has accused RTÉ of “facilitating the gameplan” of the two parties by excluding his party and its leader Mary Lou McDonald from the Prime Time debate.

brexit Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty Liam McBurney / PA Images Liam McBurney / PA Images / PA Images

Doherty said: “There is no difference between these two parties. They have the same ideology and the same outlook, and combined they received less than 50% of the votes of the Irish people at the last general election.

They have tried to carve up government and opposition, and now they want to carve up this election by excluding Sinn Féin.
This election is about much more than these two parties and the media have a responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard. RTÉ’s decision is an utter joke.

Campaigning got under way in earnest today with all the main parties setting their stalls out ahead of the general election on Saturday 8 February.

In the last election in 2016, Fine Gael won 50 seats, Fianna Fáil won 44 while Sinn Féin won 23. 

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