Northern Ireland

TV election debates: DUP's Peter Robinson warns 'puffed up broadcasters'

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Media captionDUP leader Peter Robinson said discussions around the election debates had become 'a complete shambles'

The DUP leader has warned UK broadcasters not to get "puffed up with your own importance" in the row over TV debates ahead of the general election.

"You're broadcasters, that's all you are, you're broadcasters," Peter Robinson told Sky News.

He was reacting to TV bosses' decision to proceed with three leaders' debates, despite Prime Minister David Cameron saying he would only take part in one.

Mr Robinson, who was left out of all the debates, said it was a "shambles".

'Looking for resignations'

"You seem to think that somehow by standing up to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom you're doing something worthy of applause - you're not," Mr Robinson said.

"If any government department behaved in the way that the broadcasters are behaving we would be looking for resignations - indeed you would be looking for resignations if that was the case."

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Image caption The DUP has more MPs than four of the seven UK parties invited to take part in the TV debates

Mr Robinson has not been invited to take part in the debates with other UK party leaders, despite the DUP having more MPs at Westminster than four of the seven parties that will take part.

'Coffin'

The DUP has repeatedly accused UK broadcasters of mishandling the process and Mr Robinson had now called for an independent body to organise future election debates.

"Let's be clear, you have been hammering a nail into your own coffin," Mr Robinson said.

"Never in the future should broadcasters be allowed to be the final arbiter in matters about election broadcasting. I think we need to have an independent body looking after these matters."

Mr Robinson told the BBC that Northern Ireland as a whole would be "discriminated against" if the DUP was left out of the debates.

However he said there was now "considerable doubt" that the debates would take place in any format.

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