Philo Hogan on the TV debates and Mick Martin’s efforts to avoid canvassing.

27 January 2011

Dear

Thank you for your invitation to the Leader of Fine Gael to participate in a televised party leader debate before the General Election.

You are aware that a number of stations wish to stage televised party leader debates and as of now we have specific invitations for six separate debates.

Fine Gael believes that party leader debates, and indeed debates among key party spokespeople, play an important role in a general election. Fine Gael is looking forward to participating fully in the many opportunities that will arise for media based debate in the coming weeks in TV and radio studios as well as political battles online. Even important, we look forward to engaging with voters face to face throughout the country.

The 2011 Election is different to previous elections because for the first time since televised party leader debates began in Ireland, the incumbent Taoiseach is not standing for election as leader of his party. This, and the changed political landscape, creates a new context. Fine Gael believes that it is time to break with the past and approach party leader television debates differently.

A number of broadcasters, and at least one political party, have proposed that the traditional leader debate between the leaders of the two largest parties represented in the Dáil be replaced by a three way debate involving the Leaders of three of the five parties elected to Dáil Éireann. Fine Gael disagrees with this proposal and we reject the rationale for including some parties represented in Dáil Éireann while excluding others.

Fine Gael proposes that the fairest approach to a party leader debate for this election is for debates between all five party leaders. We suggest that two set piece debates take place, one of these in English and another, as proposed by Enda Kenny last September, in Irish.

The next step is to agree how best to stage such a debate and you and your fellow broadcasters may wish to discuss how you might collaborate on this proposal. We suggest that a neutral venue, on agreed dates, with an agreed format and moderator acceptable to all parties, be arranged.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With very best wishes

Yours sincerely

__________________________
PHIL HOGAN
DIRECTOR OF ELECTIONS