Sky News expresses interest in broadcasting leaders’ debate

SKY News has joined the race to broadcast a live leaders’ debate in the run-up to the general election.

Sky’s political editor Adam Boulton confirmed the Rupert Murdoch outlet is competing to air the head-to-head debates with RTÉ, TV3 and potentially TG4.

Highlighting the extreme international interest in this country’s recent political implosion, the potential programme will be aired live across all Sky News outlets.

As a result, coverage will stretch as far as far as Israel, Australia and north America. Speaking on RTÉ’s 2fm, Mr Boulton said the plan at this stage is only a proposal.

He said should the show go ahead, it is almost certain to involve a five-way tussle between the leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour, Sinn Féin and the Greens.

“I certainly make of it that it is a very difficult time for the Irish people, and that has a knock-on effect for the rest of us,” the senior Sky New correspondent told interviewer Ryan Tubridy.

“We would broadcast it globally, to our general audience. The focus of our coverage is the UK and Ireland but we have many international viewers as well,” he said.

Boulton has been put forward for the potential leaders debate as he chaired a similar discussion between British party leaders Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg last year, though he admits to not being an expert on Irish politics.

The channel’s political editor said he will step aside from the likely role if any of Ireland’s parties wished.

RTÉ, which held the leaders’ debate in 2007 chaired by Miriam O’Callaghan, has yet to confirm its general election coverage arrangements.

TV3 has also announced leaders’ debate plans, which will involve a three-way tussle between the largest parties based on the number of TDs held.

It will give the two smaller parties “air time” on current affairs programme Tonight With Vincent Browne.

A debate on Irish-language channel TG4 has also been mooted but has yet to be confirmed.

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