The Tánaiste has rejected suggestions that Fine Gael is denying voters the right to hear what their candidates have to say by banning Sean Kelly and Andrew Doyle from tomorrow night's Irish Examiner hustings.
Sitting Cork MEP Deirdre Clune is the only Fine Gael candidate who will take part in the debate, but Simon Coveney explained that this is purely down to the party's election strategy.
Mr Doyle denied suggestions that Ms Clune is receiving preferential treatment from Fine Gael.
"I have no comment to make on who is and who isn't a protected species," the Wicklow Minister of State said.
"I am not going to get dragged into anything that relates to divisions of party, resources or otherwise. I have the resources of the moral support and the effort on the ground of my colleagues that will do me well enough.
Mr Doyle said he is confident that Fine Gael can claim three seats in the five-seater constituency.
The hustings event, which will take place in the Silver Springs Hotel in Cork city tomorrow evening, will be livestreamed.
Mr Coveney said there was "no secret" around the decision to stop the two candidates from taking part.
“We have three really good candidates in Ireland South.
“They are geographically placed in different areas in that overall constituency and so the candidates have agreed that they would focus their campaigns on those geographical areas.
"So when big events take place in those localised areas, well then the candidate that is campaigning in those areas, linked to the overall party strategy, is the person who is at the debate."
Carlow TD Pat Deering said Mr Doyle is the most experienced candidate in the field before adding: "As you know there is a Fine Gael strategy and the area is divided up equally and we have kept to that strategy."