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Kenny digs in over debate

February 7, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was last night sticking to his high-risk strategy of shunning the first TV debate of the 2011 General Election campaign as his policies came under intense scrutiny, the Irish Independent reports.

Party strategists insisted Kenny would not be “bulldozed” into decisions about the party campaign, including the showdowns between the leaders.

Shifting the focus off the leaders’ debates, Kenny will this morning announce a pledge to ban corporate donations for political parties and proposed cuts to the pay, conditions and severance packages of the Taoiseach and ministers in the new government.

Political reform is expected to dominate the agenda on the seventh day of the campaign with Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fail all due to publish “radical” proposals.

But the first TV debate tomorrow night will be seen by almost a million people and Kenny’s absence has sparked accusations that he is running scared.

His latest excuse for not participating is that his schedule does not allow it as he is attending a meeting in Leitrim.

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Fine Gael believes it has already made considerable concessions by agreeing to two debates.

One of these will involve Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in the main TV confrontation, which is normally only between the Taoiseach and opposition leader.

Kenny’s critics claim the party is deliberately trying to shield him from the spotlight because he is a weak debater and his performance in the 2007 General Election against Bertie Ahern damaged the party.

But FG insiders believe that, as the largest political party in the polls and widely tipped to lead the next government, it should not be bounced into positions. “We’re not going to be bulldozed into making a decision about any aspect of the campaign,” a senior party source said.

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