Fianna Fáil Communications Spokesperson, Michael Moynihan TD, has responded to the fallout from The Frontline Presidential Debate, calling on all those involved to learn from the mess and take the opportunity to make sure it can never happen again.
He has proposed the creation of a new US-style Irish Election Debates Commission to oversee and ensure proper funding for major election debates.
Deputy Moynihan commented: “An election process was undermined by the failure of this television programme to adhere to proper standards. This is an extraordinary and unprecedented situation. The task of all those involved and those of us concerned with improving politics in Ireland is to learn from this sorry saga and to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that it can never happen again.
“So far, in the comments from RTÉ and indeed in the responses from the BAI, I see no evidence that either party is engaging in the sort of radical reappraisal that this whole saga requires.
“I have written to the BAI to set out my concerns and proposed that as a society we take this opportunity to look closely at how we conduct election debates and what we need to do to protect the integrity of the democratic process.
“I believe that the time has come to create an Irish Election Debates Commission comprising representatives from BAI, the Broadcasters and the political parties. This commission should come together in each election cycle to agree on the number, location and format of the principal debates.
“Modelled on the Commission on Presidential Debates in the US, it could also play an important role in educating young people about the importance of politics and public affairs outside of the election cycle.
“Given the importance of these debates in shaping voters’ intentions and in turn the shape of Government in our country, I believe the time has come for new thinking on the process that we follow and how we ensure that voters are making decisions on the merits of the candidates rather than the decisions of individual programme makers.”