The Labour Party is feeling a little unloved by our national broadcaster – and it has every right to feel miffed.
It is a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for the Labour Party when it comes to pre-election TV debates.
The big ticket event is between the warring bride and groom – Fianna Fail and Fine Gael – and Labour is traditionally designated to the position of bridesmaid and also-rans along with Sinn Fein and the Greens.
But in light of the UK TV debates, the Labour Party is starting to flex its muscles and demanding what should rightfully be theirs – a place at the big ticket event.
Leading the charge is the party’s spokesperson on Communications, Deputy Liz McManus.
She feels that it is time that RTE woke up to the fact that Ireland is no longer a two-party country – Labour is biting at the heels and wants a piece of the action.
“It is time for RTE to acknowledge that the Irish electorate will have the same three way choice at the next election here,” she said.
She said the arrangement that has operated to date – where Labour has been put in the same bracket as Sinn Fein, the Greens and (in the past) the Progressive Democrats – could not be acceptable in the changed political environment in which we now operate.
“All of the recent opinion polls have shown that Irish politics is now a three horse race.”
“For instance, the most recent tns/MRBI opinion poll showed just 12 percentage points covering the three main parties, while the most recent Millward Brown poll showed a range of 15%. There is very similar to the range covering the three main parties in the UK.”
“In addition a number of opinion polls have put Labour ahead of Fianna Fail while in the recent European elections, Labour won a quarter of the seats – the same number as Fianna Fail.
“RTE should recognise that the Irish political landscape has changed and there is no case for retaining the outdated two leader format. RTE should have the courage to resist attempts by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to retain the outmoded status quo.”
“As far back as last October the Labour Party wrote to RTE looking for a commitment to a three way debate, and while we received an acknowledgement saying that RTE was reviewing the format used in previous elections, we have had no other response.”
“As there is a possibility of a general election at any time between now and May 2010 this is a matter that we will be raising with RTE again,” she said.