Two way debate is a ‘stunt’ - McGuinness

Martin McGuinness has called a proposal to have a two way debate between candidates Michael D. Higgins and Sean Gallagher as “a stunt by the Labour Party”.

The Sinn Fein MLA has also referred to “a dirty campaign” by “certain sections of the media”.

The stunt claim was prompted following reports that Labour Party candidate for the presidency Michael D. Higgins claimed he would be willing to debate fellow front runner independent, Sean Gallagher. Mr. Higgins described the possibilty as “useful”.

Mr. McGuinness reacted by stating: “This is a stunt by the Labour party. A two way debate is not even possible as electoral legislation ensures that all candidates must be given equal airtime by broadcasters. Therefore a two way debate is not possible.”

Polls by the Sunday newspapers show that Mr. Higgins and Mr Gallagher have opened up a gap between the rest of the candiates.

Mr. McGuinness, however, was not writing off any of the candidates. When asked had it now become a three horse race, he replied: “No, I wouldn’t say so. We’ve never seen it that way.

“Ireland is not looking for a personality, they are looking for vision and for someone with inspiration to lead the country. I have a proven track record in job creation as Deputy First Minister of the North of Ireland and my record is there to be scrutinised.”

Mr. McGuinnness played down a reported three point drop in the polls with the words: “We’ve never used election polls as a barometer of public opinion. The only poll that matters is that on October 27 when the people of Ireland are asked who do they wish to be president.”

When asked was the campaign dirtier than he had imagined, Mr. McGuinness said: “No, we’ve had this type of dirty campaign before. These type of tactics are not being deployed by the candidates but by certain sections of the media.

“Sinn Fein have been here before with other elections and these tactics won’t deflect us from our project.”

Mr. McGuinness and the other six candidates will have a hectic final ten days before the people go to the polls. The former Minister for Education and serving MP for Mid Ulster said: “I’ll be visiting as many constituencies and counties as humanly possible in order to maximise support. for my campaign.”