Enda Kenny happy to take part in TV debate with opposition

Taoiseach agrees in principle to live leaders debate during general election campaign

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will be happy to conduct a live television debate with Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin.  Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will be happy to conduct a live television debate with Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he will be happy to conduct a live television debate with Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin. 

In so doing, Taoiseach has let it known he has agreed in principle to a live televised leaders debate during the general election campaign, which is expected to occur in the Spring of next year.

At the Fianna Fáil think-in in Dublin, Mr Martin had challenged Mr Kenny to a “no holds barred” debate ahead of the election .

Responding yesterday, Mr Kenny said: “What is new here? 

“I will be very happy to engage with the leaders of the opposition and all those who aspire to be leaders. We will work on the details of those in due course.”

The Taoiseach said the challenge for the Government is to not succumb to the politics of popularity. Mr Kenny said the priority would be to ensure the recovery is not jeopardised. 

Fianna Fáil has said it supports a position where Irish Water is abolished with day-to-day delivery of services being returned to local authorities.

Mr Martin proposed on Tuesday that a new body be established that would have overarching strategic control of water services.

He said this body would be similar in structure to the National Roads Authority. Mr Martin said that with little over 100 staff, the NRA had overseen the construction of Ireland’s network of motorways in conjunction with local authorities.

He said such a streamlined control system should be considered for a new water utility, with day-to-day delivery of water provisions and sewage services being returned to councils.

He was speaking at the conclusion of Fianna Fáil two-day parliamentary party meeting at the Marine Hotel in Sutton, Co Dublin.

He said the current model did not work: “It’s the first tax in the history of the State that has resulted in the Government losing money.”

Party finance spokesman Michael McGrath said that Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin had said it would cost €1 billion to abolish Irish Water but that that the Government had given no access to information that might back up that figure. He said the entire project was “in tatters” especially after the Eurostat ruling that it had not passed the market test.

During the morning, the party’s TDs and Senators heard presentations from IFA president Eddie Downey as well as from independent broadcasters of Ireland who outlined the great challenges faced in their sector. The party then held a session discussing electoral strategy.

That party’s candidates in the Dublin Bay North constituency, where the meeting was held, are Deirdre Heney and Seán Haughey. There have been tensions over the addition of Mr Haughey to the ticket. For the second day running neither candidate was present.

In a media conference, Mr Martin also criticised the Government for what he described as a crisis in social housing and homelessness.

“There is a chronic emergency in housing. The Government stands indicted. It is a scandal.”

Asked for views on prefabricated houses, he said that six months ago he might have said the response must be better than that but now it was a choice between them and very unsuitable hotel and B&B accommodation.

Asked for a response to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams comments that his call for a suspension of the Northern Assembly was “stupid”, he said: “Gerry Adams should be careful about labelling people ‘stupid’.”

He asserted that the rate of child poverty in Mr Adams’ former constituency of West Belfast was 46 per cent.

“Before you call people stupid, account for your own 30 years of stewardship in West Belfast,” he said, in comments directed at the Sinn Féin leader.