Opinion: Debate about a debate has propelled NI on to the political agenda

Nigel Dodds said there is still negotiating to be done on general election debates
Nigel Dodds said there is still negotiating to be done on general election debates

On Friday January 23 we asked the broadcasters to explain and review their decision to exclude the DUP from the ITV and BBC televised general election debates.

Their responses fail to deal with the issues we raised. No rational justification has been offered and no clear criteria were set out.

The DUP has more seats and votes than Plaid Cymru yet it is included and the DUP is not. The broadcasters have failed to explain why one region’s largest party is being treated differently from another region’s.

With the Prime Minister still not confirmed for the TV debates, there’s a lot of negotiating still to be done. This has some way to run yet. But the one certainty from this entire process is that Northern Ireland has been put front and centre of UK politics.

This further confirms the key role DUP MPs will play in the next Parliament. Indeed the debate about the debates has sparked national journalists and commentators to recognise the full role our MPs play in the House of Commons.

The DUP is in a unique position as the SDLP aligns with the Labour Party whip, Alliance is a sister party of the Lib Dems, the UUP don’t have any MPs and SF don’t take their seats. The DUP is not in the pocket of any party.

Respected commentators are predicting DUP MPs could hold the balance of power after the next election. It is therefore only fair that the DUP get to play a full role in any debates before the election.

In this, as in other areas, we will fight the case for Northern Ireland and for our voters’ voices to be heard.

Nigel Dodds is the DUP’s leader at Westminster