Sinn Féin confirms Mary Lou McDonald's participation in RTÉ leaders' debate, critical of last-minute nature of decision 4 months ago

Sinn Féin confirms Mary Lou McDonald's participation in RTÉ leaders' debate, critical of last-minute nature of decision

"This should not have come down to a last-minute decision on the part of RTÉ."

Sinn Féin Director of Elections Pearse Doherty has confirmed that Mary Lou McDonald has accepted RTÉ's invite to take part in Tuesday’s Prime Time leaders' debate.

Originally, the debate was to be held between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

However, McDonald will now participate after RTÉ reversed its initial editorial decision.

An opinion poll on Sunday placed Sinn Féin as joint leader with Fianna Fáil on 24% each, ahead of Fine Gael on 21%.

In a statement today, RTÉ said: "RTÉ is very mindful it has a duty to the public to reflect events as they unfold. During the course of the campaign and over recent days RTÉ has taken into consideration the notable change in the dynamic of the campaign on the ground, and representation and statements by political parties."

It adds: "The dynamic has also been consistently reflected in all opinion polls since the campaign commenced. We now consider it necessary to amend our original approach, respond to the changes in the campaign, and continue to put the audience first in the making of Tuesday night's programme."

Doherty has since replied by stating that he welcomes the decision by RTÉ to include McDonald, while noting that that it "should not have come down to a last minute decision on the part of RTÉ".

In a statement, Doherty said: "I want to welcome the decision by RTÉ to extend an invite to Mary Lou McDonald to take part in tomorrow’s party leaders’ debate on Prime Time, and I am happy to confirm that Mary Lou will be participating. That being said, this should not have come down to a last minute decision on the part of RTÉ."

"Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil wanted this election to be about them, but this election was never about two parties with no real policy differences, who have effectively been in government together for the last four years," Doherty added.

"Neither of them represent change. This election is about the Irish people and our future. Sinn Féin are the real voice of change in this election and are the only party that is committed to giving workers and families a break. In the final days of the election campaign, I am appealing to voters to come out on Saturday and vote for Sinn Féin".

Prime Time - The Leaders Debate airs at 9.35pm on Tuesday, 4 February on RTÉ1.