The leaders of Ireland’s three main political parties have clashed in their final TV debate before voting in the general election takes place.
Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) and leader of Fine Gael Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald took part in the RTE Prime Time debate.
The programme took place after a shock poll showed a huge surge in support for Sinn Fein ahead of Saturday’s election. The party topped the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll for the first time, with 25% of voters saying they intended to vote for the party. Fianna Fail was second on 23%, with Fine Gael – in government since 2011 – lagging behind in third place on 20%.
It could be a seismic shift in Irish politics, although Sinn Fein is running too few candidates (just 42) to see them lead a new government, or have Mary Lou McDonald become Taoiseach.
As expected, both Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin focused attacks on Ms McDonald from early in the debate, with the Taoiseach accusing her party of being soft on crime, due to its opposition to the country’s non-jury Special Criminal Court, used to jail terrorists and serious criminals.