Voters in the Republic of Ireland will go to the polls on 8 February. Leo Varadkar is seeking to stay as prime minister but what is the historical difference between his Fine Gael party, the opposition Fianna Fail and the third party, Sinn Fein?
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been invited to take part in a televised debate ahead of the general election in the Republic of Ireland on Saturday, 8 February.
The debate on RTE, the Irish national broadcaster, was due to involve Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, who is the Taoiseach or Prime Minister, and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.
But an opinion poll in the Irish Times has put Sinn Fein on 25 percent, two points ahead of Fianna Fail, with Fine Gael trailing on 20 percent and RTE said it was “mindful it has a duty to the public to reflect events as they unfold”.
So who are these three parties and what are their historical roots?
In the early 20th century the island of Ireland was part of the British Empire but the Irish had been campaigning for years for “home rule”.
During the First World War Irish nationalists launched the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 but were mercilessly suppressed by British troops.
Support for Sinn Fein (which means We Ourselves in the Irish language) grew dramatically after the Easter Rising and Sinn Fein won 73 of the Irish seats in the British Parliament in the 1918 general election.
But instead of going to Westminster, Sinn Fein leader Eamon de Valera set up an…