Taoiseach: 'I'm not afraid of debate; referendum is not about politicians'

Taoiseach: 'I'm not afraid of debate; referendum is not about politicians'

The Taoiseach has been hit from all sides of the opposition with increased calls to take part in a televised debate on the fiscal treaty.

Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independent TDs heaped more pressure on Enda Kenny to argue his support for the deal.

With just over a week until the referendum, the Taoiseach refused to reveal whether he would participate in a live discussion, saying it should not be about boosting politicians’ profiles.

“Referenda are matters for the people to make a decision on. They are not about giving profiles to different politicians,” he said.

“I have no fear at all of public debate on this issue, but I’m not sure that we should turn this into a crisis situation.”

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams said it was bizarre that he was willing to give a scripted state-of-the-nation style address on the treaty on Sunday night, but afraid to face down the opposition.

“Wouldn’t it be more leaderly as the Taoiseach that you do come into a TV studio and inform the people and leave your policies open to scrutiny?,” Mr Adams said.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett accused him of hiding from the issue and echoed Mr Adams’ calls to inform the public of all the information in the treaty.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the public could not understand the Taoiseach’s reluctance to debate the issue.

He asked if he had been approached by RTE to take part in a leader-to-leader showdown.

“What I’m trying to get at here is the need for a genuine political debate,” Mr Martin said. “I think it is the first way to resolve any claims or counter claims about a lack of balance about the way the parties are being treated.”

But the Taoiseach said he was unaware of any invitation from the State broadcaster.

Mr Kenny has rejected numerous appeals from TV3 to attend a televised debate against Gerry Adams.

He had signalled he would not do any show hosted by the station’s veteran broadcaster Vincent Browne because of a fall-out between the pair.

Mr Browne then stepped aside as moderator, with TV3 political editor Ursula Halligan taking his place, but the Taoiseach still refused to accept Mr Adams’ challenge.

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