Sinn Féin issues legal letter to RTÉ following debate exclusion

Sinn Féin issues legal letter to RTÉ following debate exclusion

SINN FÉIN have issued a legal letter to Ireland's state broadcaster, RTÉ, following the descision to exclude the party from the upcoming Leaders' Debate.

In what could indicate the first step towards a court case, the letter urges RTÉ to overturn their decision and allow party leader Mary Lou McDonald to take part in the televised debate which takes place just days before the General Election.

As reported by The Independentthe letter sent by Sinn Féin argues that the party should be included in the debate because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have been in a confidence and supply deal for the past four years in government, and that "Sinn Féin has been the largest voice of opposition in the Dáil".

The letter, seen by The Independent, states:

"Given the precedent of multi-party participation in leader's debates since the 2007 election, we consider that it cannot reasonably be contended that there is sufficiently compelling broadcasting justification for an action which demonstrably likely to unfairly influence voters in a manner which runs counter to the democratic principles which underpin our Constitution, which principles require to be respected by RTÉ in the decision making process."

"Our clients contend that the holding of a two-way leaders' debate in the manner proposed is not necessary to meet any legitimate end or objective and does not service any or any sufficiently weighty broadcasting or editorial objective."

It goes on to argue that excluding Sinn Féin from the debate is not "fair, objective or impartial" and the decision is likely "to have an impact on the election result".

The letter requests a formal reply by end of business today, Thursday 23 January. RTÉ have confirmed they will issue a responce.

Sinn Féin have been excluded from two televised leaders' debates so far-- RTÉ's upcoming debate on 4 February, and last night's Virgin Media One debate.

Mary Lou McDonald had previously called the decision a "farce", considering that Sinn Féin are the third-biggest party in Ireland and, according to recent opinion polls, are polling just one point behind Fine Gael.

Many on social media echoed Ms McDonald's sentiments following Virgin Media One's debate last night, during which a large segment focused on Sinn Féin, where the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were able to talk freely about Sinn Féin's policies without any representative for the party present to defend itself.

Sinn Féin released a statement condemning the "ridiculous scaremongering and claptrap" coming from the party leaders, saying: "We look forward to our right of reply".