For a principle to have any real meaning, it must be blind.
It cannot be diluted to serve subsidiary purposes. It cannot be qualified to disadvantage one entity over another.
If principles are not absolute, they are just inclinations that can be indulged or ignored.
Free speech is one principle this society upholds.
It, therefore, seems strange that there should have been a question about allowing Sinn Féin to participate in a televised leaders’ debate ahead of Saturday’s election.
It is even more puzzling that the broadcaster that struggled to accommodate SF is the national public service broadcaster.
That the most recent poll suggests that 24% of the electorate supports that party adds more weight to that argument.
By excluding SF, that party was able to present itself as a victim, ostracised from the normal cut-and-thrust of the hustings by the establishment groupings it wishes to challenge.
Which, in turn, gave them a free pass on so many of their policies.
Far better to include the party and debate their proposals.
As that political truism goes — the best way to neutralise a revolutionary is to give them a seat in parliament.
This kerfuffle has served a higher purpose. It has shown that TV debates do not enrich our democratic process or make any meaningful contribution to voters’ informed decision-making.
They have crossed the line between participatory democracy and Punch ’n’ Judy entertainment.
It’s time to review the whole vapid process.