herald

Friday 14 December 2018

What's on the telly? Up to four live leaders' debates on the way during election

Voters will have up to four live TV debates in the run up to the election after Sky News threw its hat into the ring.

The British broadcaster is in talks with all the political parties about the possibility of pitting their leaders against each other with Adam Boulton posing the questions.

If agreement is reached it could result in an unprecedented three or even four pre-election debates with RTE, TV3 and TG4 also vying for airtime.

A similar situation developed during the UK elections when the leaders of the main parties debated the issues on Sky, BBC and ITV.

Reports suggest that Sky's political editor Boulton is anxious to secure a deal which would almost certainly draw a big audience on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Sky would also see the move as a way of attracting a wider audience in the Republic.

It is understood that station bosses wrote to Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, The Green Party and Sinn Fein last week.

They are now awaiting replies from the parties, including Fianna Fail which is in the process of electing a new leader.

Request

Reports say that representatives from Sky will travel to Dublin this week if necessary to press their case.

It now seems inevitable that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore will be part of any televised pre-election debates for the first time.

Traditionally only the leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael went head-to-head.

The latest opinion polls show Fianna Fail tied in third place with Sinn Fein, meaning that Gerry Adams may also have to be invited to the debate.

And as the outgoing junior party in Government, the Greens are also likely to feature.

In 2007, RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan hosted two debates on Prime Time, with the first of the two debates featuring the leaders of Labour, Sinn Fein, the Greens and the Progressive Democrats.

Last year, the parties appeared to reject plans put forward by RTE who wanted to hold three debates across the campaign.

It is not yet clear whether the parties will facilitate a request from Sky News which has reportedly extensively on the Irish crisis in recent weeks.

Its political editor, Boulton, is vastly experienced in British politics but this would be his first big foray into the Irish system.

Last April he hosted a debate on Sky New between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

hnews@herald.ie

ENDS

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