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No room for Mary Lou as Varadkar and Martin set to face off in Virgin Media debate

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin go head-to-head in a pre-election debate this Wednesday – but there will be no place for Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on the stage.

Virgin Media announced two debates that will take place on the channel ahead of the February 8 General Election.

In what will be the first televised debate of the campaign, Pat Kenny will be the host as the leaders of the two biggest parties in the country square off as Ireland decides who will be the Taoiseach when Britain leaves the European Union.

Virgin Media, just like RTÉ have left Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald out of the prime slot. This is despite Sinn Féin being just 1% behind Fine Gael in the weekend’s Sunday Times poll.

The second broadcast on Virgin Media will be a debate where the seven major parties will be represented which will be hosted by Ivan Yeats and Matt Cooper. That takes place on January 30 – three days after RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live Leaders’ Debate which will also see broader party representation.

The debate between Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin is be the first of two one-on-one debates – the pair will also be apart of the The Prime Time Leaders Debate on February 4 – just days before the country goes to the polls.

Yesterday, Ms McDonald has declared it a “farce” that she is being excluded from the RTÉ leaders head-to-head debate.

“What kind of debate is it to say to people that you can have Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil which really is no choice at all?”

“We’re taking legal advice on the matter also,” she added.