Party leaders may take part in four televised debates

Seven-leader encounter in Limerick to be followed by debates on RTÉ, TG4 and TV3

Party leaders will take part in four televised pre-election debates between now and February 26th

Party leaders will take part in four televised pre-election debates between now and February 26th


Four televised debates for party leaders have been scheduled for the general election campaign.

RTÉ has proposed two – one involving seven parties and the other confined to the four main political parties.

The first planned is a seven- leader debate at University Concert Hall in Limerick, to be broadcast live on February 15th. It will be conducted before an audience of 300 people.

This will include Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Fine Gael, Labour, Renua, the Social Democrats and the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People before Profit alliance.

The Independent Alliance and the Green Party have both complained to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland about their exclusion from the debate.

It is not known whether Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton will participate in the debate.

The second debate will take place on February 23rd and will follow a more conventional format. RTÉ is proposing it would comprise Kenny, Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Prime Time anchor Miriam O’Callaghan is to chair the debate, which is planned for the RTÉ studios without an audience.

Both debates will be followed by a live reaction programme, The Spin Room, hosted by David McCullagh.

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TG4 is also proposing a debate with the four leaders of the main political parties, as is TV3. The dates and details of these have yet to be confirmed.

Veteran broadcaster Vincent Browne has said his broadcasting work during the campaign will be limited, due to illness. The 71-year-old informed viewers this week his role would be limited to hosting the four remaining programmes in the People’s Debate series – constituency-based, town-hall-style gatherings at which election candidates face questions from constituents.

Browne has had a fractious relationship with the Taoiseach, who refused to take part in any debate chaired by the broadcaster during the last general election campaign. Kenny at the time said his decision was based on remarks made by Browne in 2010 about suicide.

A spokesman for Kenny said the Taoiseach would participate in a number of debates. Asked if that included a TV3 debate he said the details have yet to be finalised.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said all requests were under consideration.

Over the course of the general election campaign The Irish Times will also conduct a series of interviews with the party leaders for the Inside Politics podcast.