Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny

Controversial journalist Vincent Browne remains at the center of a major election row.

Likely Prime Minister Enda Kenny, head of the Fine Gael party has refused to engage in any live television debate with his opposite numbers from Fianna Fail and Labour if Browne is involved.

Browne had suggested in September that Kenny lock himself in a room with a bottle of whiskey and a gun and commit suicide because he was such a poor politician.

Browne’s late night show on TV3 has gained cult status for its irreverent attitude to the politicians who have dragged Ireland down.

But the recent remarks made by Browne about suicide have upset Kenny who has steadfastly refused to take part in a debate with Labour’s Eamonn Gilmore and Fianna Fail’s Michael Martin this Tuesday night.

Kenny has told TV3 that his vacant seat in Tuesday night’s debate will: “Stand as a symbol to those forced to emigrate by the Irish government in recent years.”

Election favorites Fine Gael have confirmed that Kenny will participate in a five-way leader’s debate on RTE television later this week but will sit out Tuesday’s version on the independent station.

Browne has apologized for his remarks and offered to stand aside as mediator if his absence would encourage Kenny to attend while a leading Sinn Fein politician has slammed the stand-off.

Sitting TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh has claimed the row over the TV3 debate is a "joke."

“This story highlights all that is wrong about Irish politics,” claimed Dublin South West TD Ó Snodaigh.

“The Irish people must find it sickening that leading politicians are consumed with this rather than serious issues, such as thousands of people losing jobs and thousands more being forced to emigrate.”