Gilmore agrees to Martin's debate proposal 'in principle'

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has tonight agreed in principle to debate proposals from new Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

The Cork South Central TD today proposed a series of debates at the beginning and end of the campaign, including a series of one-on-one debates throughout the contest.

Mr Gilmore said he found the debate proposals “acceptable in principle.” He wrote to Mr Martin congratulating him.

“As you will be aware I have been urging agreement on such a set of debates for almost a year and we have already had preliminary discussions with RTÉ and TV3 on this question,” Mr Gilmore wrote.

“I agree in principle with the broad outline you propose for debates during the election campaign.

“It is now urgent that the three parties enter into discussions with each other and with the broadcasters to finalise logistical and other technical issues to allow the debates to proceed.”

A Fine Gael spokesman said: "We have not received any letter yet, we have not received any correspondence to date in this regard and we will respond in due course."

Mr Martin excluded Sinn Féin – who are neck-and-neck with Fianna Fail in the opinion polls – from the challenge.

He said the traditional model of election debates was seriously flawed and must change.

“I have therefore already written to Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore asking them to join with me in agreeing to the most extensive and detailed series of debates yet seen in an Irish election,” Mr Martin said.

“Specifically, I have asked them to agree to hold two debates between us three, one at the start of the campaign and one at the end. In addition there would be a series of one-on-one debates between us and a separate debate in the Irish language.

“In the past they have both called for such a series of debates so I hope that agreement can quickly be reached.”

Sinn Féin's Dáil leader Caoimhghin O Caolain hit out at Mr Martin for not inviting the party to take part in the debate.

“Once again we have a Fianna Fáil leader engaged in the politics of exclusion and only willing to debate with parties from the consensus for cuts,” Mr O Caolain said.

“Unfortunately Fianna Fáil’s new leader has started off with more of the same. Ahern, Cowen, Martin – will it ever change?”

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