Taoiseach rules out TV debate on Seanad poll
Kenny claims Fianna Fail leader ‘looking for notice’ by demanding debate
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: declined to take part in RTE debate on Seanad abolition. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
RTÉ said today it was informed by the Government Press Secretary late yesterday that the Taoiseach was declining an invitation to participate in Tuesday night’s Prime Time debate in front of a studio audience.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, whose party opposes the abolition of the Upper House, has already agreed to take part in the debate, which is being chaired by Miriam O’Callaghan.
The broadcaster said this afternoon alternative arrangements are being made to find a speaker to represent the Yes campaign.
Yesterday, Mr Martin said he still did not know if the Taoiseach would be participating in the debate. “The Taoiseach made this his core initiative . . . It’s a serious and profound change to the Constitution and I hope he will respond positively to the Prime Time debate,” he said.
Mr Martin said the public wanted to see politicians who were prepared to discuss “the substance of an issue as opposed to just soundbites and gimmicks”.
Canvassing for a Yes vote in Blanchardstown in west Dublin today, Mr Kenny claimed Mr Martin was simply “looking for notice and an opportunity”.
The Taoiseach said Mr Martin had “no occasion to be deemed the leader of an Opposition to this Referendum”.
Fianna Fáil said it was “deeply disappointed” by the Taoiseach’s decision. “The proposal to shut the Seanad is dramatically reducing the space for democratic debate in our country and removing key constitutional protections,” it said in a statement. “The very least people could have expected was that the Taoiseach would have the courage of his convictions and would seek to discuss and debate what is his personal initiative.
“The timing of the announcement, delayed for ten days until All-Ireland weekend, also smacks of the cynicism and dishonesty that have been the hallmarks of Fine Gael’s entire election campaign.”