Latest: President Higgins' campaign team criticise Sean Gallagher's letter to Áras ahead of live debate

Latest: President Higgins' campaign team criticise Sean Gallagher's letter to Áras ahead of live debate
Sean Gallagher and Michael D Higgins in 2011

By Denise O'Donoghue

Update 4.49pm: The Michael D. Higgins reelection campaign team has addressed Sean Gallagher's comments regarding tonight's live debate, which the President will not be attending.

Mr Gallagher hit out at President Higgins for his "unwillingness to participate in all debates" in a letter sent to Áras an Uachtaráin last night.

Mr Gallagher has said he would only attend debates which featured all of the candidates.

President Higgins' campaign director, Claire Power, criticised Mr Gallagher's letter in a response released publicly this evening.

She asked Mr Gallagher to direct future correspondance in relation to the election campaign to President Higgins' campaign office in Dublin 2 "for obvious reasons" before confirming the President will not take part in tonight's televised debate this evening on RTÉ's Claire Byrne Live.

"Let me confirm that President Michael D Higgins will fulfil the debate engagements that he announced publicly on October 2," Ms Power said.

Can I say that I was surprised to receive your missive last night before the airing of one particular debate.

"As noted above President Higgins publicly indicated his commitment to debates 12 days ago."

Earlier: 'It is insulting to the people of Ireland': Gallagher hits out at Higgins over debates

By Steve Neville

Update 12.38pm: Sean Gallagher has hit out at President Michael D Higgins for his "unwillingness to participate in all debates".

Presidential hopeful Gallagher has written a letter to Mr Higgins urging him to reconsider his stance and attend all presidential debates in the lead up to the election.

Mr Gallagher has said he would only attend debates which featured all of the candidates.

RTÉ will host a televised debate this evening on Claire Byrne Live, but President Higgins is not expected to attend.

In his letter, sent last night, Mr Gallagher has urged the President to change his mind and attend the debate.

"Recently, I defended your position not to participate in the News at One debate due to your Presidential commitments," Mr Gallagher wrote.

"However, on this occasion, I note there are no public engagements in your diary for Monday that preclude you from participating in the Claire Byrne Live debate and your decision, as stated by you, is a political one in the context of this campaign.

"I am disappointed in your decision and believe it is insulting to the people of Ireland and shows contempt for the integrity of our electoral process. Furthermore, it serves to feed the disconnect between the peoples of Ireland and the office of President, particularly in the context of recent concerns about trust and transparency."

Mr Gallagher added that given "the significance of this election" he feels it "incumbent on every candidate to engage in all debates.

"You called for the remainder of this election to be a conversation on what the Presidency should be. However, your actions do not reflect your words.

Mr Gallagher ured the President to reflect on his decision not to participate in all debates "with a view to providing the people of Ireland with the level of discourse they deserve and one which benefits the Office of President."

Mr Gallagher added that he has left space in his schedule to attend the debate should Mr Higgins decide to attend.

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