Election Diary: BBC and UTV leaders debates confirmed

Last year's BBC leaders debate ahead of the General Election
Last year's BBC leaders debate ahead of the General Election

The two televised leaders debates of the election campaign are to be held almost three weeks apart – with the first debate taking place next week.

UTV will broadcast its debate between the leaders of the five biggest Stormont parties next Wednesday (13 April) at 8pm. The debate will be chaired by presenter Marc Mallet in front of an audience in Belfast’s Lyric Theatre.

By contrast, the BBC’s televised leaders debate will take place just two days before the election. The programme, hosted by veteran broadcaster Noel Thompson, will also involve the five main parties – the DUP, Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP and Alliance.

The debate will be followed by an analysis programme hosted by Tara Mills.

Yesterday the BBC released details of a huge number of election-related programmes on Radio Ulster involving Good Morning Ulster, the Nolan Show, Talkback, Evening Extra and Inside Politics.

As well as those broadcasts, in both a break with past coverage and a nod to concerns about turnout among young people, there will be a programme in which 18-year-olds can put questions directly to the politicians seeking their votes.

Eighteen years after the 1998 Agreement, ‘Election 2016 – The Good Friday Agreement Generation’ will involve first time voters and will be hosted by Stephen Nolan and Tara Mills on 20 April at 9pm.

Send us details of your hustings events

This column will attempt to keep readers up to date on as many hustings events being held across Northern Ireland as possible.

Although some of the big battleground constituencies will feature in TV debates, in many seats potential voters will only be able to question candidates at local events where they can set out their stall in person.

If you are organising a public hustings event for candidates in your constituency, please send details to sam.mcbride@newsletter.co.uk or phone 02890 897722.

Please include the venue for the event, the time, the names of the candidates who have been invited to take part and the names of those who have agreed to attend.

Pengelly’s paper omits Stalford

It can be tricky for candidates with running mates in constituencies where only one is guaranteed to win.

They need to show loyalty to the party – which means working with their running mate – while ensuring that if only one gets in, they are top dog. Tensions in these circumstances are common.

In South Belfast, the DUP’s Emma Little-Pengelly – who was coopted into the Assembly six months ago by Peter Robinson – has been distributing a newspaper-size pre-election leaflet. Intriguingly, despite eight large pages in which to impart information, there is not a single mention or photo of running mate Christopher Stalford .