Members of the local Galway cumman of Aontú staged a protest outside of the Clare Byrne Leaders Debate which took place in the Bailey Allen Building in NUIG last night.
The group were protesting the omission of party leader Peadar Tóbín TD from last night’s debate, which saw the leaders of seven different parties face off live on RTÉ 1.
The group high visibility vests and wearing masking tape over their mouths to highlight Deputy Tóibín’s exclusion from the debate.
Formed last year after Deputy Tóibín was expelled from the Sinn Féin parliamentary party, the party is running 26 candidates in the election, including Cormac Ó Córcóráin in Galway West.
The party had sought an injunction in the High Court (which they later withdrew) to stop the debate going ahead . A statement from the party read:
“We will be notifying the High Court this morning of our intention to make an application for an injunction later in the day in relation to the exclusion of Aontú from the RTE Leaders’ debate. We believe that election debates should be fair and open to facilitate citizens in making an informed decision on policies and parties when casting their vote.
“It makes no sense to exclude one of the eight parties with Dáil representation from the debate. The recent EU elections saw RTE facilitate debates with 8 and 9 candidates. One of the criteria for inclusion in those debates was that the participant was a TD elected to the Dáil. The changed criteria for inclusion is arbitrary and unfair in our view.”
The party’s statement also pointed out that the group received a higher vote in the local elections than the Social Democrats and People Before Profit, the leaders of which both participated in the debate.
Galway cumman member Deirdre Lawless said “I think there’s a bit of an agenda there in RTÉ simply because he’s pro-life and Aontú are the only pro-life party [in the Dáil]. I think there’s an agenda in RTÉ to censor any pro-life people left in Ireland”.
A sister Paul Lawless – who is running for the party in the Mayo constituency – Ms Lawless added: “We’ve thousands of members throughout the country. We’re the fastest-growing grass-roots movement in Ireland at the moment. There’s a definitely a thirst for change here in Ireland”.
Elsewhere, the NUIG Life Society released a statement on Facebook condemning Deputy Tóibín’s exclusion from the debate.