'No' campaigners deny infighting over Cora Sherlock's last-minute exit from RTE debate

No vote campaigners have denied an alleged behind-closed doors clash between senior members over Cora Sherlock's scrapped appearance in last night's RTE referendum debate.

The Love Both and Save the 8th campaigns rejected the accusation despite failing to explain why Ms Sherlock did not attend events over the past 24 hours after her last-minute pull-out from the high-profile live TV debate.

In a dramatic development on Tuesday evening, RTE was forced to change its planned four-person live TV debate involving Health Minister Simon Harris, Ms Sherlock, pro-life Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibin and consultant obstetrician Prof. Mary Higgins.

The change occurred after Ms Sherlock was pulled from the programme by no vote groups who wanted to replace her with Maria Steen, despite the fact Ms Sherlock had formally agreed to appear in an e-mail last Thursday evening.

Cor Sherlock.

The move led to a public war of words with RTE, with the Love Both campaign saying in a late night statement the reason for the change was because a no vote doctor was not on the panel and the Save the 8th group saying it was because of RTE's refusal to allow Ms Steen to be substituted in.

However, despite the explanations, in a video posted on her brother Leo Sherlock's website www.theliberal.ie in the early hours of this morning Ms Sherlock said she did not pull out of the debate and said the move had nothing to do with doctor involvement.

Speaking to reporters at two separate no vote campaign events in Dublin City Centre today, Love Both and Save the 8th groups denied suggestions the last-minute change was due to a internal fallout.

Asked five times, Love Both spokesperson Katie Ascough repeatedly said no voters are "united in our goal" but refused to explain what happened as "I cannot speak for Cora".

When it was pointed out Ms Sherlock had not responded to media calls for 24 hours and did not attend the Love Both event, Ms Ascough said "I was not involved in the decision".

At a separate event, Save the 8th spokesperson John McGuirk said there has "absolutely not" been any infighting among no vote officials, and said the two groups and the Iona Institute agreed last week that Ms Steen should represent them in the debate.

When it was pointed out Ms Sherlock - who is a member of Love Both - formally told RTE in an e-mail last Thursday she would appear, Mr McGuirk said "they [RTE] don't get to try and bully us and frankly they tried to do to us in this referendum what they did to Sean Gallagher, and they should be ashamed of themselves".

Mr McGuirk said Ms Sherlock only "agreed in principle" to appear last Thursday, said "the public watching this can see in nearly every election over the last decade there's been some stroke or interference by RTE in relation to debates" and also said questions should be referred to Ms Sherlock.

Ms Sherlock did not respond to a number of Irish Examiner phone calls on the issue.

Meanwhile, Mr McGuirk said "only an idiot would make a prediction" on the referendum in response to Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath's claim yes will win by a 60:40 majority, before adding internal Save the 8th polls put the yes and no sides "within 2%" of each other "and I won't tell you which way it will go".

Mr McGuirk has said his group's internal polls are suggesting a 51-49% result in this weekend's referendum - but has declined to say which side the private statistics say will win.

"In relation to polling and predictions, only an idiot would make a prediction about how this is going to go on Friday. I've been burned in the past in making predictions, I'm not going to do it again," Mr McGuirk said in response to Mr McGrath's Tuesday remarks.

"I will say though our pollsters sent me a memo this morning predicting - I won't tell you which way it will go - but prediction a 2% difference," he said.


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