Tonight sees the first of four televised debates before next month’s General Election as the two front runners to lead the post-Brexit Government face off.
Controversially, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been excluded from both tonight’s debate and the final debate before the country goes to the polls.
Between those two debates, there are two bigger ones which will include Ms McDonald, Labour leader Brendan Holwin, as well as the Green Party and other smaller parties.
Here's all you need to know as Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar prepare to face the nation for the first debate.
The Pat Kenny-hosteddebate between Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar takes place tonight at 9.30pm.
Thebetween the leaders from a number of political parties takes place on January 27 at 9.35 with a post-debate show . The seven political parties leaders joining Claire on stage for the major two hour live debate will be: Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin), Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael), Brendan Howlin (Labour), Micheál Martin (Fianna Fáil), Richard Boyd Barrett (Solidarity / People Before Profit), Eamon Ryan (Green Party) and Roísín Shortall (Social Democrats).
The second broadcast onwill be a debate where the seven major parties will be represented which will be hosted by Ivan Yeats and Matt Cooper on January 30.
On February 4, just days before the country goes to the polls,will see Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin face off.
Broadcasting regulations mean that media coverage of elections must be fair and unbiased.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean every party or candidate gets equal time.
Broadcasters can use the results of the previous General and Local Elections for guidance in determining how much coverage a party, or parties, get.
In the 2016 General Election, Fine Gael got 25.5% of the first-preference vote, Fianna Fáil 24.3% and Sinn Féin 13.8%. Last year’s Local Elections saw FG 26.9%, FF 25.3% and SF 9.5%.
These results mean bothand can have Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar face off in a one-on-one debate as their parties were well ahead of third-place Sinn Féin in the last ballots.
The two opinion polls that have come out since the election was announced have seen Sinn Féin close the gap considerably.
Thepoll had Fianna Fáil ahead on 25%, Fine Gael on 23% and Sinn Féin on 21%. When undecideds (20%) were included in the results, the gap between second and third tightens - FF 20%, FG 18% and SF 17%.
However, neithernor are obliged to use these polls as the basis for organising their televised debates.
This poll came out just days after Fianna Fáil saw a 12-point lead over Fine Gael in the. That poll had Leo Varadkar’s party just one point above Sinn Féin.
also announced that party leaders will also face Bryan Dobson in a series of interviews to be broadcast throughout the campaign. While on Colette Fitzpatrick will also interviewing all party leaders live on the News at 5.30.