Aontú Leader and Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín invited 8 leaders of political parties in the North of Ireland to participate in a public debate on the issues of concern to people in advance of the election. All but one of those parties refused to respond and participate. Speaking of the lack of public debate in this election Peadar Tóibín stated:
“10 days ago I sent an email to the leaders of Sinn Féin, the DUP, the SDLP, the UUP, the Alliance, the Green Party and PBP requesting that they would participate in a public debate in a neutral space to be chaired by a neutral moderator. All of the leaders bar one refused to respond. In fairness to the Alliance Leader, Naomi Long she did respond and said that she would make herself available for a public debate. It is astonishing that there will be no public debate between the political parties before the election on the future of the north of Ireland”.
“This local election has been marked by an incredible lack of engagement by the leaders of political parties on the real issues that are affecting people on daily basis. These well paid leaders are responsible to the people. These elected reps are accountable to the people. The Health service is a breaking point with services being cut in hospitals across the north and GP services in danger of closing. There is a £750 million hole in the education budget which is leading to services for children with special needs being cut. Families are in the depths of a horrendous costing of living crisis. Yet rates are increasing for businesses and households. And the north is looking down the barrel of a austerity budget from the British Government. And through all of this Stormont remains crashed”.
“The leaders of the establishment parties dont even see the need to defend their positions in public debate with other leaders. They are not even open to challenge There is a shocking lack of communication in a broken Stormont and here we are 3 days before an election and even the election process has not even created the dynamic of debate. These fractured political parties are operating through in their own silos. Its not good enough at all. The leader of Sinn Féin Michelle O’Neill would not even allow herself be questioned by the BBC’s Mark Caruthers. The party has boycotted the Stephen Nolan. This would not happen in any other democracy. Even if you don’t like the questions, as an elected representative you have an obligation to make yourself available to be held to account”.
“The political system in the north of Ireland is stale and dysfunctional. It is divorced from the reality of most of the people they are supposed to represent. Its not good enough just to fly your flag at election time and ignore the bread and butter crisis that are consuming so many families. Seeking votes to keep the other side out only keeps every one out. The system in Stormont is facilitating the damaging and corrosive political paralysis across the country. There needs to be a democratic revolution. Voters need to show the parties of dysfunction the door”.