Green Party objects to ‘exclusion’ from RTÉ debates

Group sends legal letter to broadcaster about representation in pre-election leaders’ debates

 Leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan argued the format is not fair and will have a negative impact on his party’s electoral prospects. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan argued the format is not fair and will have a negative impact on his party’s electoral prospects. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

RTÉ has been sent a legal letter from the Green Party objecting to its “exclusion” from a pre-election leaders’ debates which will feature Renua, the Social Democrats and other parties.

Two televised debates have been proposed by the national broadcaster. One is a four-way debate involving Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton for the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams.

The other is a seven-person debate that will also include the leader of Renua Lucinda Creighton, as well as representatives of the Social Democrats and Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit .

Electoral prospects

RTÉ says participation should be based on representation in the Dáil, but Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has argued the format is not fair and will have a negative impact on his party’s electoral prospects.

“As it stands the Green Party will be explicitly excluded from your debates and the opportunity to put our case before the people in this crucial format at this crucial time,” he complained to RTÉ last month. “It can only exclude us from the minds of voters on the eve of election.”

Mr Ryan said two of the parties due to participate “were not even in existence” until 2015.

In a solicitor’s letter sent to RTÉ this week, the Greens called on RTÉ to include the party in a new debate format.

A spokeswoman for RTÉ said it was committed to giving a fair allocation of air time to all parties, including the Greens, as part of its programming before the general election.

“Invitations to the two proposed leaders’ debates on RTÉ television were issued on a fair and impartial basis to all of the parties with a significant representation in Dáil Éireann.

Invitations

“This is the very same basis upon which RTÉ issued invitations to leaders’ debates on RTÉ television in advance of both the 2007 and 2011 general elections.”

The spokeswoman said on both those occasions the Green Party was invited to participate because of its representation in the Dáil at the time, and other parties who did not have a presence in the Dáil were not.

“The debate in question is only one among a great many programmes which will form part of our comprehensive RTÉ Election 2016 output across television, radio and online.

“RTÉ is committed to giving a fair allocation of air time to all parties, including the Green Party, as part of our overall programming in advance of the general election.”