From climate action to corporation tax, candidates from the Ireland South constituency of the European Elections discussed a range of topics in a live television debate.

Nine of the 23 candidates in Ireland South participated in last night's Prime Time debate on RTÉ Television.

Voters head to the polls this Friday for the European Elections, Local Elections and a Divorce Referendum, while people in Cork City, Limerick and Waterford will also be asked their views on directly elected mayors.

Thirteen MEPs will be elected in the three Ireland European constituencies. That is two more than the last election in 2014, as Ireland gains extra MEPs due to the planned exit of the UK from the EU.

The three Ireland European constituencies are Ireland South (five seats), Dublin (four seats) and Midlands-North-West (four seats).

The debate began with Sheila Nunan of Labour being asked about the fact that she did not live in the constituency. She said she is very familiar with the needs of the constituency, describing it as a "mini-Ireland".

She also said she had been in the Labour movement, despite not being in the party.

Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace defended questioning by Miriam O'Callaghan over fines he received for failing to pay pension contributions of workers.

"We were fined because we had a row with the Pension Board," Mr Wallace said.

He acknowledged he knowingly made a false declaration on VAT, saying he was trying to keep his business going. He also rejected suggestions he had not been upfront about his dealings with Cerberus. 

Sinn Féin's Liadh Ní Riada, an outgoing MEP, said her party would have "critical engagement" with the EU, but would also see the positives.

She said she was among the top two hardest working MEPs in the country.

Ms Ní Riada also said her party wanted transparency around expenses.

Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher denied that he had been disloyal to his party leader by insisting on running when he had been asked not to run. He said he had been asked to stay in national politics.

Mr Kelleher acknowledged that his running mate, Malcolm Byrne, is doing well, but said the party needed the two candidates. 

He said he could make a major impact for Ireland South.

Independent candidate Cllr Breda Patricia Gardner defended the fact that she was running in both the Local and European Elections.

She said she has spent 38 years working as a nurse and health practitioner and wanted to respond to the many calls she had for help on health issues.

She rejected the suggestion she would not be able to make an impact on health in Europe. 

Andrew Doyle, a Fine Gael TD, defended the environmental impact of Ireland's farming sector.

He said Ireland's output per animal was better, and denied that more animals would mean more emissions.

Independent candidate Diarmuid O'Flynn disagreed and criticised Mr Doyle's support of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement which will see beef access for Latin American countries raised to 100,000 tonnes a year.

The Green Party's Grace O'Sullivan said her party had been categoric and about achieving a "just transition" in tackling climate change, and not leaving anyone behind.  

She said the EU could support Ireland with funding here. 

Adrienne Wallace of Solidarity-PBP said her party wanted to tackle the corporate lobbyists, and said the fossil fuel industry needed to be tackled. 

Asked why she was not voting for a carbon tax, Ms Ní Riada said this was penalising the poor.

Mr Kelleher said there were other ways of reducing emissions.

Ms Gardner said she did not use plastic posters and said that "even the Green Party used them". 

Ms O'Sullivan said the use of posters was a huge dilemma for her, and she attempted to have designated areas for posters.

Mr O'Flynn rejected the suggestion that we are polluting equally, pointing out that a study found that 25% of companies are responsible for 50% of emissions, he said.

Ms Nunan said fossil fuels were too freely available, and she said the tax should be ring-fenced for people who are facing income poverty for projects such as retrofitting of homes. 

Ms Wallace said studies consistently showed carbon tax did not work, and called for EU-wide free transport.


Read more: Elections 2019
Debate: As it happened


Diarmuid O'Flynn said a consolidated corporate tax base, or CCTB, would mean a minimum payment from companies.

He said that he was looking from a wider perspective. "We have to work with the EU on this" he said. 

Billy Kelleher said Ireland's 12% corporate tax was a fundamental plank of industrial policy, and denied Ireland was a tax haven.

Mick Wallace said it was wrong to think Ireland could not run a country without being "a tax haven", adding that €1bn could be saved on the children's hospital and the broadband plan.

Andrew Doyle said various EU treaties had stated that tax is a sovereign issue.

"Other countries pretend they have higher corporate tax rates," he said.

He also defended the Government's handling of the Broadband Plan.

Ms Ní Riada said her party believed tax was a sovereign issue, but she also said she thought there was a "huge amount of tax dodging going on".

Adrienne Wallace said Apple owed Ireland €13bn but Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil was preventing this being paid. 

Breda Patricia Gardner said she believed PESCO, the European defence cooperation entity, was wrong. "We are a neutral country, why then should be promoting war?" She added: "I believe the way forward is world peace."

Grace O'Sullivan said Ireland's neutrality was "priceless" and needed to be maintained. She said she was absolutely opposed to arms spending. 

Mr Doyle said predictions of an EU army were wrong. "This is not about an army, this is about security," he added.

Mr Kelleher said Ireland's neutrality was enshrined in the Constitution.

He said PESCO was not a military alliance. "We won't be going to war but we have to ensure Irish citizens and citizens in Europe are safe," he said.

Other candidates in the constituency are: Allan Brennan (Independent); Malcolm Byrne (Fianna Fáil); Dolores Cahill (Independent); Deirdre Clune (Fine Gael); Paddy Fitzgerald (Independent); Theresa Heaney (Independent); Seán Kelly (Fine Gael); Peter Madden (Independent); Liam Minehan (Independent); Peter O'Loughlin (Identity Ireland); Walter Ryan-Purcell (Independent); Maurice Joseph Sexton (Independent); Jan Van De Ven (Direct Democracy Ireland); Colleen Worthington (Independent).

The Dublin constituency will be the focus of Monday night's Claire Byrne Live debate, while Midlands-North-West will feature in the final RTÉ television debate, on Prime Time, this Tuesday.