Dublin Mid West TD accuses RTE of bias against party

by Padraig Conlon
Mark Ward

Local Sinn Fein TD Mark Ward has accused RTE of “playing Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s game.”

The Dublin Mid-West TD’s comments came as he blasted the state broadcaster’s decision to exclude Sinn Féin from the leaders debate in the final week of the general election.

As the latest opinion poll revealed this week that Sinn Fein are performing strongly, Deputy Ward said that “excluding alternative voices does a disservice to the public interest.”

The new Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI study shows Fianna Fail is now in front with 25%, no change in comparison to their showing in the last poll in October.

Fine Gael have dropped six points, from 29% to 23%, with Sinn Fein showing the biggest gain up seven points in the new poll, from 14% to 21%.

“This general election has been framed by some as a two-horse race between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, two parties that have been in a confidence and supply arrangement since 2016,” Ward said.

“Regrettably, this includes the national broadcaster RTÉ, who have chosen to exclude Sinn Féin from its leaders debate in the final week of the election; despite the fact that Sinn Féin has led opposition to their government arrangement over the past four years.”

RTE will hold two live debates during the campaign with the first taking place on Monday, January 27 on Claire Byrne Live when seven representatives from the main parties will take part.

The debate between Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin is set to take place on Tuesday, February 4.

Ward said he asked Sinn Fein’s director of elections Pearse Doherty to write to RTE outlining Sinn Fein’s opposition to this decision.

“This decision, quite frankly, is wrong, politics is about people and it is about policies,” Ward said

“It is about opinions and it is about views, it is not about personality contests.

“Yet, this is what RTE are proposing to host by facilitating a debate between two parties with no real discernible policy differences and no alternative vision for the country.

“The national broadcaster has a responsibility to make sure that all voices are heard.

“Excluding other views does a disservice to the public interest and prevents the public from hearing real issues being debated.

“That is Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s game plan, they want this election to be about them.

“But it’s not. It is about the Irish people and our future.

“RTE should not be playing Fine Gael and Fianna Fail’s game.

“That is a failure of their duty as a public service broadcaster.”

A spokesperson for RTE told Dublin Gazette:

“In approaching election coverage the RTÉ election steering group has regard to objective and impartial criteria, such as the results of the last comparable election (in this instance, the general election 2016) and the results of intervening elections, such as the 2019 local and European elections.

“Other factors are also considered in RTE coverage of the campaign.”

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