Presidential candidates criticise format of TV debates

Several presidential candidates have criticised the formats of TV debates during the campaign, describing them as “farcical” and in bad need of reform.

On the last day of the campaign before polling, some of the candidates took to the streets to press the flesh with voters.

Businessman Sean Gallagher, who sued RTE in the wake of the 2011 Frontline tweet debacle, said TV stations hosting debates must modernise the format in order to better serve the voters.

“How debates happen and how candidates are treated into the future should change,” said Mr Gallagher.

“I think the debates have descended into a farce. Having conversations about the process of elections, consistently going over the same questions in each debate really makes a farce of it.

We don’t get to see the personalities because candidates are put on the back foot from the very beginning and pounded with questions. The process is not allowing candidates get their vision out.

"I would like to see the structure of the debates change.”

Pieta House founder and senator Joan Freeman voiced concern about how much the debates were dominated by issues relating to money and the business interests of some of the candidates.

She said she and her rivals were not given sufficient time to set out their vision for the office.

Peter Casey posted a video on his Twitter account to emphasise he is someone who is not afraid to speak out and would do so if elected to the office of president.

Today, ballot boxes were delivered to 11 islands off the coasts of Donegal, Mayo, and Galway to allow early voting commence.

The island with the largest number of registered voters is Inis Mór where 666 people were able to cast ballots.

There are five islands off Donegal where voting took place, including the largest, Arainn Mhor.

The ballot boxes were brought to some of the islands by ferry and to others by Defence Forces helicopter.

At Inishbofin, off Donegal, the ballot box arrived by helicopter before being carried by a Garda officer, accompanied by local presiding officer Carmel McBride, to a community centre to allow islanders their chance for a say in who will become the next President.

There was a similar procedure on Tory Island where a Garda officer carried a ballot box to a school and voting was opened to the public at 11am.

The ballot boxes were then collected from the islands in the afternoon.

Islanders traditionally vote a day before the rest of the country to ensure there is no delay in transferring the ballot boxes to the mainland in time for the count.

Some 2,601 islanders are eligible to vote in this year’s election.

About 460 live on islands off the coast of Cork, but they will have to wait until Friday to vote, like the rest of the country.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív said islanders are at a disadvantage under the current process. The Galway West TD said he is confident this election will be the last time those living off the coast have to vote on a different day.

“As a consequence of transport difficulties and the impact of adverse weather on these services, islanders have historically cast their vote up to three days ahead of the general populace,” said Mr Ó Cuív.

“However, we have improved transport services and therefore this is no longer a valid reason for non-polling day voting.”

He added that the arrangement has proved “very unfair” to residents because it means they typically miss out on the final days of election campaigns.

The electorate will also be asked on the ballot paper whether they want to remove the word “blasphemous” from the Constitution.

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