Presidential debate: Cost of election and presidency one of the biggest issues of the night

That's it from the Virgin Media One presidential debate.

The polls open on Friday, October 26 when you will get to have your say on who you think should be the next president of Ireland.

Update: A question was posed by an audience member about the cost of the election.

Gavin Duffy said: "I would say to people watching, it's bizarre that three of us have come from one TV programme, I apologise.

"I believe there are really big issues facing Ireland, I felt I had something to contribute, and I've put myself forward, that's democracy."

Liadh Ni Riada acknowledged that without Sinn Fein there may not have been an election.

"It is about upholding democracy, this is about the future, I'm an MEP already and I had to give this a huge amount of thought," she said.

"There was no question about it, Sinn Fein would always field a candidate."

Michael D Higgins said: "Democracy is important.

"I believe I have the experience and the authenticity of values I have represented all my life."

Freeman claims she is only 'independent' candidate in race

Update: Liadh Ni Riada has said she would separate her party beliefs from her presidential duties.

"I'm proud to be nominated by Sinn Fein but this is about being a president for everybody and that inclusivity.

"There's no denying it, I'm a Sinn Fein candidate, but I would be a president for everyone."

Joan Freeman has said she is the only independent candidate in the race.

"We're not looking at the real thing, to run for this campaign you have to be a millionaire or aligned to a party."

Casey would donate salary to charity chosen by county councils

Update: Peter Casey has announced he would donate his presidential salary by month to a different charity chosen by county councils.

Liadh Ni Riada said: "I think the salary should be halved. The president should lead by example."

Sean Gallagher said: "The issue for me is about the expenses, that these expenses have not been audited for four years, if that was any other government department, heads would roll."

Joan Freeman said she would accept the entire salary to funnel it to volunteers as awards from her own pocket.

Michael D Higgins said: "I've never accepted the full salary, I took a reduction of 23.6%.

"I don't draw my ministerial pension, I'm perfectly happy to accept any salary that the Government suggest.

"About the €317,000 you ask about, I have no problem appointing an independent audit.

"It would be entirely wrong to personalise or politicise this."

Mr Higgins has called the charges levelled at him by Peter Casey "a fantasy list".

Questions turn to housing crisis as candidates reveal they are all landlords

Update: Asked about the housing crisis, President Higgins, Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy admitted they are all landlords.

Peter Casey said: "The president is the influencer in chief. You can only influence as president."

Joan Freeman said: "Homelessness has many different levels. We have children, 280% increase in child homelessness, and students trying to get accommodation. That is up to the government. It is the president's duty and role to inspire new initiatives to help that."

Mr Gallagher said: "The president can remind the government that they must work together to address the greatest crisis of our time."

Mr Higgins said: "I have raised the issue of homelessness many times.

"It's an important debate we need to have about the role of the state and the role of the private sector.

"The issue isn't about getting on the property ladder, it's about shelter and security in housing."

The three businessmen admitted they supported water charges.

Gavin Duffy chastises Pat Kenny over hunting questions

Update: Gavin Duffy admitted he used to hunt as he grew up in the countryside, before chastising presenter Pat Kenny.

He said: "I want to say we have to be careful how we're disqualifying people about going into public life.

"To say Joan can't be a president for all people because she voted no in Repeal the 8th, considering the work she has done, is wrong."

Ní Riada questioned about 'ambivalence to violence' about comments on IRA atrocities

Update: Liadh Ni Riada was asked about her "ambivalence to violence" in regard to past comments about IRA atrocities.

She said: "I think any atrocity like that (Enniskillen bombing) should be condemned, but look, the IRA have been gone the last 20 years, we have a peace process in place, we should be cementing that.

"Would you call Nelson Mandela a terrorist?"

Managing Director of Virgin Media Television Pat Kiely, MEP Liadh Ni Riada and Director of Programming at Virgin Media Television Bill Malone pictured tonight as Presidential candidates arrived at Virgin Media Television Studios in Dublin for Virgin Media Television's Presidential Debate with Pat Kenny. Picture: Brian McEvoy

Freeman accused of being out of step with public over No vote in abortion referendum

Update: Joan Freeman, who voted No in the Repeal the 8th referendum, has been accused of being out of step with the majority of the public who voted to repeal Ireland's abortion laws.

She said: "I don't think the Irish people are as judgmental as you have just been, Pat (Kenny).

"I reflect what Ireland is, this is what makes us democratic, we're able to discuss and debate.

"It was my personal conviction, that has nothing to do with my public duty."

Freeman brands Higgins and Gallagher 'arrogant' for debate no show

Update: Joan Freeman said the decision of Sean Gallagher and Michael D Higgins to not show up to the last TV debate was arrogant and offensive.

Mr Higgins said he undertook to do as much as he could in terms of media, including TV, radio and print but is constrained by his role as president.

"To talk about not turning up, I've been turning up since 1969."

Mr Higgins said he changed his mind after he said he would only run for one term.

"It's very important to know the role, and the extent of the role," he said.

Peter Casey refuses to back down over traveller comments

Update: The first televised Irish presidential debate with all six candidates has begun with a question asking each candidate whether they would be a one or two-term candidate.

Joan Freeman, Liadh Ni Riada, Gavin Duffy and Sean Gallagher all said they would only be one-term presidents.

Peter Casey said he would serve his term, and would again go for nominations from county councils for a second term.

Mr Casey was asked by presenter Pat Kenny about his controversial comments on Wednesday, when he said Irish Travellers were "camping" on other people's land.

Peter Casey pictured tonight as Presidential candidates arrived at Virgin Media Television Studios in Dublin for Virgin Media Television's Presidential Debate with Pat Kenny. Picture: Brian McEvoy

"We have so many wonderful nationalities here, it's wrong to single out one particular ethnic group differently," he said.

"One of the county councils who endorsed me was Tipperary, and as you know we have a housing crisis at the moment.

"When I was down there, there was 1.7m spent building six houses that the travelling community wouldn't move into because they wanted sheds and two stables and one acre of land.

"Why should they be given the right to turn down a house? I think that is wrong."

President Michael D Higgins has highlighted that Traveller men have 11 years' less life expectancy than other males, and are six times more likely to commit suicide.

Kenny asked candidates if they would like Traveller people to live next door to them.

President Michael D Higgins pictured tonight as Presidential candidates arrived at Virgin Media Television Studios in Dublin for Virgin Media Television's Presidential Debate with Pat Kenny. Picture: Brian McEvoy

Mr Higgins said: "Yes, I have a halting site a couple of hundred yards from my house and they are wonderful people."

Mr Casey interrupted and suggested that Mr Higgins objected to a halting site near his home in 1968.

Mr Higgins said that was inaccurate.

"I have never objected to a halting site. I was an elected representative on Galway city and county council and I often took a stand, unpopularly, on the rights of Travelling people to be offered housing," he said.

Mr Casey accused his fellow nominees of lying about their feelings towards Travellers, and said: "It's like giving chocolate to a diabetic, you're not helping them."

Mr Gallagher replied: "That's a racist comment Peter."

Presidential candidates go head to head in live debate

Earlier: The six candidates seeking election to the presidency are taking part in a live TV debate.

The debate will be hosted by Pat Kenny and went live at 10pm on Virgin Media One.

This is the second debate this week after President Higgins and Sean Gallagher sat out of Monday's debate on Claire Byrne Live on RTÉ.

According to Virgin Media, the candidates will field questions from Kenny as well as members of the live studio audience.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Pat Kenny said: "It's very exciting to be hosting the first TV debate with all candidates in front of our audience.

"It’s a great opportunity for viewers to see them all in action and for them to put forward their vision for their presidency and convince us why they are the best candidate.

"Polls are just polls and nothing is a given until the votes are cast."

Mr Kenny hosted the infamous Frontline debate ahead of the 2011 debate where a tweet that came from a 'fake' account was blamed for derailing Gallagher's hopes of winning the election.

Meanwhile, President Higgins looks on course to be re-elected as President for the next seven years according to the latest opinion polls.

Today's Irish Times/MRBI figures show the current president has a commanding 66% lead, with Seán Gallagher his nearest rival on 12%.

Liadh Ní Riada is just behind Sean Gallagher on 11%, while Joan Freeman has 5% support, Gavin Duffy is on 4% and Peter Casey has 2%.

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