Enda Kenny declines three-way debate

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has declined the invitation by newly elected Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin for a three-way election debate with the leaders of the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil.

Mr Kenny said his Fianna Fáil counterpart was not in a position to dictate the format for any election debates and said that he was not willing to exclude other political leaders from a televised election debate. By Christina Finn

Deputy Kenny said the debates should be "inclusive" and that Michael Martin wanted to "exclude people" and restrict the campaign to television studios and not meet the people.

He said he would be 'quite happy' to engage in a five-way leaders' debate on any television station in either English or Irish.

Fine Gael is keen to expand the debate format to include Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Green leader John Gormley. A Fine Gael source said "The indications are that Eamon Gilmore wants to keep Gerry Adams out of the debate. It's quite evident that there's some competition on that side of the spectrum."

Fine Gael heads the polls, with Labour in second and Fianna Fail languishing at the bottom. The Red C poll carried out for Paddy Power bookmakers shows Fine Gael stands at 35%. Labour stands at 21% and Fianna Fáil is on par with Sinn Féin at 14%.

Traditionally RTE holds one debate between the party leaders of fine Gael and Fianna Fail and a second debate between the leaders of other parties. In 2007 almost one million people watched the leaders' debate on RTE between the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny.

The two leaders came head to head in their only debate of the campaign. Issues such as Bertie Ahern's finances and tribunal appearances were raised with Bertie Ahern stating the best way forward for the country is to vote for Fianna Fáil so as to build on his Government's achievements.

Mr Kenny then said that the government was responsible for a "litany of lies", and he appealed to the public to vote for change or stay with what he called a tired Government that does not keep its word.

It was agreed by most that Bertie Ahern had comfortably beaten Kenny in the debate.

But all leaders it seems will not be able to shy away from public debates in this upcoming election, with the media, T.V, Youtube, Twitter and other social media set to be a key instrument used by all parties.