Opinion poll shouldn't decide who takes part in leaders debate, says Martin

The Fianna Fáil leader does not believe an opinion poll should decide whether Sinn Féin takes part in tomorrow night's leaders debate.

Opinion poll shouldn't decide who takes part in leaders debate, says Martin

The Fianna Fáil leader does not believe an opinion poll should decide whether Sinn Féin takes part in tomorrow night's leaders debate.

Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar are to go head-to-head on Virgin Media despite calls from Mary Lou McDonald to be included.

The poll of 1,200 people by IPSOS MRBI for the Irish Times has Fianna Fáil on 25 points, Fine Gael on 23 and Sinn Féin on 21.

But Micheál Martin feels it is right that it is just himself and Leo Varadkar on stage tomorrow.

“I don’t think we should be deciding these issues on opinion polls,” Mr Martin said on a visit to Longford.

“I said last Sunday that there would be an opinion poll this week and it would very much be different to the opinion poll we had at the weekend, and we’ll have other opinion polls that will be different as well.

“The only two parties that can lead a government in my view are Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The only party that can actually lead an alternative government is Fianna Fáil – we’re the only party that can bring about a change of government, with other parties (junior coalition partners) I acknowledge.

“And I think it is legitimate that there would be a head-to-head debate between myself and Leo Varadkar in terms of putting an option to the people in terms of the type of governments we would lead.”

The Social Democrats say that Mary Lou McDonald should be included in any upcoming TV debate.

The party's co-leader Catherine Murphy, says they are paying no attention to opinion polls but that Mary Lou McDonald should be included in leaders debates.

"I don't think that there is an arguable case against that," said Ms Murphy.

"When you are in a small party opinion polls matter so little because the methodology and a whole lot of things come into play.

"We are relying on what we are hearing on the doorstep and I have to say we will wait until the poll is taken.

"This is a very open election."

Ms McDonald has characterised the decision to confine the debates to the two leaders as undemocratic.

Earlier in the week, she said: "Huge numbers of people will never vote for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - they just won't, they vote for other parties - and I think in the interest of a debate that genuinely is a debate you have to include those voices.

"There is no difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael - Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar differ on very, very little, and have been in government together in their confidence-and-supply arrangement for the past four years, so you're asking the two arms of that government to debate with each other on the decisions they took together and the consequences people are living with."

Additional reporting by Press Association

More in this section