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The seven candidates at the Newstalk/Google debate earlier today PhotocallIreland

LIVEBLOG: The Presidential candidates' Frontline debate brings you live debate from all the presidential debates, minute by point-scoring minute. NOW: Live from RTE’s Frontline Presidential debate.

GOOD EVENING AND welcome. It’s the final stretch in the Race for the Áras and the seven candidates must be surely happy to get in out of the torrential rain in Dublin tonight and into the RTÉ studios.

There they are being greeted by Frontline host Pat Kenny for the final major televised debate of the campaign. It looks like the candidates have arrived without the need to resort to armbands. Don’t believe us? Check out the videos and pictures in our flooding update tonight…

And here we go…

Gay Mitchell got in his Presidential ad there before, well, the other ads.

Each candidate being invited individually onto the stage.

Each candidate has five supporters in the audience. #moralsupport

A minute each to decide what their legacy would be after seven years.

Mary Davis (MD): I would have rebuilt community spirit, brought jobs, lived by values of fairness, respect and choice for people.

Gay Mitchell (GM): He used his experience well, they would say. He kept our children at home, he was a moral influence, he attended the subject of suicide as he promised.

Martin McGuinness (MMcG): That I was compassionate, shared their pain, that I gave leadership in getting economy back on track.

Dana Rosemary Scallon (DRS): That I stood shoulder to shoulder with them, that I was a hopeful leader and hope that we could get through the difficult years. That I could cross the bridges that President McAleese built. That I was consistent.

David Norris (DN): Human rights and a sense of belonging for the marginalised. I would have put the wellbeing of the people at the heart of my presidency. Is David going a tad over the one minute?

Seán Gallagher (SG): That I used my experience as an entrepreneur to attract and create jobs; that I spoke to every school in Ireland; that I’ve been a role model for those with a disability; that I have bred confidence into the country.

Michael D Higgins (MDH): He helped to inspire us out of a difficult position; to play to our strengths; that he drew on his experience of human rights activism; to restore and heal and help the country; that he encouraged imagination and creativity.

First audience question: What does it say about the country that it looks like we might have an ex-FF businessman as President? (She’s probably not one of the five supporters SG was allowed then…)

SG replies his mantra that he’s not Fianna Fáil and starts on the business mind needed to inspire and attract hope for Ireland. Says he stepped back from his role in business in June/July to focus on role.

MDH gets applause for his take on Gallagher while DN is getting specific on the wealth generated by SG’s company – “more than that earned by any plasterer I’ve come across”. He’s getting some laughs here.

MD is saying the job is about the people’s agenda and that she fulfills that more than anyone.

Pat Kenny (PK) is asking if only she and SG are apolitical. MD says she is the only true independent. DN having none of it.

MMcG says there’s nothing wrong with the grassroots of Fianna Fáil – the rottenness was at the heart of the administration and that “Seán was at that heart of that”. He talks about meeting at Crowne Plaza that he says SG organised where people paid €5,000 to meet former Taoiseach Brian Cowen. Ouch.

Dana Rosemary Scallon (DRS) is not happy with the bailout and believes the country was sold out.

GM says polls are not reliable. So now.

GM says he just doesn’t believe that the polls are correct and that SG isn’t as far ahead as the polls would suggest. He doesn’t think the people have such short memories.

Pat Kenny: SG, are you thick as thieves with Fianna Fáil.

SG: I’ve met you as often as I have met Brian Cowen.

PK: Well, I’ve only met you about twice.

SG: I’ve met you four times.

Sorry guys – system flickered there for a minute but to update: the other candidates, especially Martin McGuinness, are going heavy on Seán Gallagher’s Fianna Fáil links. The audience seem happy with that.

Asked if any of them have skeletons in the closet, all say no. DN says his closet is empty after the serious scrutiny he underwent.

MMcG says if anything was in there, it would have come out by now.

SG says he doesn’t foresee anything.

GM is being asked if his low scoring in the polls is down to him personally, considering that Fine Gael is in the upper 30s in satisfaction ratings.

GM says people need to decide that this isn’t a celebrity question – he believes people will look at his experience on Thursday and vote for that.

MD is being asked what she thinks of her ratings going down. She wants to have a pop at previous governments first about their mismanagement of special needs/flooding defences etc.

On the polls, she says she believes she was portrayed unfairly at times but she would say to people to vote for someone they can trust and not worry about the polls.

DRS says she doesn’t believe in how polls work in the end because she says she never polls well but then gets elected. She says “I don’t trust the Dublin 4 polls; I trust the poll of the people I meet on the street.”

MDH is being asked if he took his eye off the ball. Not at all, he says. He thinks that he has an excellent chance if he increases by 5 per cent and will get transfers after that.

DN says polls don’t always get it right. He claims the bookies offered 10,000/1 on him getting a nomination at all at one point.

Dang. We missed that one.

Commercial break. Back in a moment – have to check the hallway roof for a leak*.


MMcG gets the first slap of a question after the break. He’s asked by a young woman in the audience how he can come down to the Republic and represent her.

MMcG believes that Irish people should be able to vote for the president – north and south of the border. The young woman in the audience is not letting it go. She says he comes from another political world and this is not for him.

MMcG says he wants to be president of all the people of the 32 counties.

The woman in the audience (Emma Louise) says: But that isn’t the role of the Irish president.

MMcG says he will have “none of this partitionist attitude”. He’s getting rather agitated.

MDH says the Constitution is the one we have but that it is 75 years old and maybe when we look at it next spring, we should consider a revision. He has no issue with MMcG running.

GM says he has no issue with MMcG running and that President McAleese is from the North and a wonderful ambassador. But, he says, it’s not a representative of the 32 counties.

DRS, who in fairness as someone who grew up in Northern Ireland would know, says building a bridge between both sides of the Border is vital.

SG answering the question on why he won’t give a straight answer on some issues. If you know what we mean. (The cheque resting in his account for €89,000 etc.)

The lady in the audience asking the question asks where it came from.

SG says the cheque was made out to the wrong account and it was an accident. He says his accountant came across it, alerted him to it and it was resolved within four weeks.

The lady in the audience says that doesn’t make any sense to anyone who runs a business. She is asking if it was a loan to SG. He asks that he can explain.

He is explaining.

It’s still a book-keeping account, according to his explanation. And he is 100 per cent tax compliant. PK says the tax clearance cert is nothing to do with that anomaly.

MDH says he has a background in accounts but it all sounds a bit complicated to him.

MD says truthfulness and transparency is very important.

She says she’s not saying anything about SG.

But she takes issue with him plastering his pictures on ad spaces on bins in shopping centre. (Funnily enough, we noticed those in Stephen’s Green SC today…)

That comment from MD is to do with his ‘poster-free’ stance. GM wants SG to make a clear statement on that cheque tomorrow just to clear it up.

MMcG is being asked if deaths at hands of IRA were murder or some sort of collateral damage.

MMcG says he regrets that the conflict happened. He won’t say that Jean McConville was murdered (she was a mother who was ‘disappeared’ by the IRA after, apparently, she helped a wounded British soldier. He says that he believes the family of Jean McConville when they say they believe she was murdered, and he wouldn’t disagree with them.

GM says there was nothing ever as low as the murder of Jean McConville, mother of nine and a widow.

DRS asked if she would call the death of Jean McConville murder. She says this is the level of tragedy and that the North had tried to find a way of finding common ground that would not see a return to that.

MD and MDH say it was murder, yes.

DN says the guilt is not all on one side. Mentions Bloody Sunday, the Shankill Butchers.

SG is also unequivocal that those killings of civilians were murder, on both sides.

The candidates are being asked about the new legislation which requires people to report an allegation, even if they believe it to be false.

MDH says that he would make the report but tell the gardai that he believed it to be false.

GM says he would comply with the law. But he says if he knows it to be a malicious allegation without foundation, he would also tell them that.

DRS says protection of the child must come first, as does MD. For too long, says MD, children have been neglected.

DN says it is wrong both morally and legally for an adult to have sex with a minor and that he has said that through all his career.

DN brings up the trouble PrimeTime is in for making accusations against a priest for which they have since had to apologise.

He says he would report but make it clear that it was a malicious allegation.

MMcG says you would have to report an allegation, even if you had doubt about it, because the child’s safety is priority.

SG says the same in the interests of the child but with the caveat that the information he was putting forward might not be accurate.

Do we think the candidates get more irate when they are made to stand up at lecterns rather than being given a seat?

PK pointing out that Martin McGuinness’s campaign account on Twitter says the man who gave him €5,000 cheque to attend Brian Cowen event is to appear in front of MMcG press conference tomorrow.

SG says that man is a “fuel smuggler and a criminal, investigated by CAB”. He says he has “no recollection” of the cheque being given to him. Hisses from the audience.

Some serious blows being landed on SG’s campaign right now. Talk of envelopes and driving to this man’s house to get it.

MDH wants full disclosure of all this and that it be resolved as soon as possible. He wants the issue clarified.

DN and DRS want this clarified.

But DRS is wondering if people care about all this when they are worried about their own fate after the bailout.

The candidates being asked how they will vote on the Constitutional amendment about giving Oireachtas committees more power.

DRS will vote no on both.

GM is not impressed by the “six” former Attorney Generals’ letter to the papers today rejecting the amendment. (“Eight!” interjects DN).

MD thinks the whole debate has been too rushed and we should come back to it next year. She thinks it IS an infringement of rights.

DN also would vote No. He thinks this government has simply “changed jerseys” from the previous one and concentrating “huge amount of power” in Oireachtas committees is “dangerous”.

MMcG points out that he won’t have a vote. If he had, he shares the concern over how rushed it has been. PK points out that Sinn Féin would be pushing a Yes vote. But he says it is a good way to get people like Seanie Fitzpatrick of Anglo to face the music.

SG says the legislation could come before them as a president and none of them should be expressing opinions on it now. He says he is cogniscent of the former AGs’ views. He says he is “cautious”.

Boos from the audience for SG: DN says that he hears people all over the country “opening their minds”.

MDH says he doesn’t think it appropriate to comment on how he will vote. When pinned to it, he says he would vote Yes.

PK is really trying to find out whether talk of volunteering/Good Samaritanism is just a gimmick and looking for votes.

GM believes that the President can hit the ground running and MD also says that it’s a “quasi-pastoral” role and that you can do that in lots of ways.

DN says the Pope washes the feet of penitents (“as an emblem, once a year” says PK) and that gestures are important.

MMcG returns to his idea of taking six young people off the dole queue as a symbolic gesture.

SG onthe importance of showing solidarity.

Another question from the audience. SG is asked of those jobs he created in the boom time (100 of them) – are they still there?

SG says obviously business has suffered – he says there are about 20 jobs left.

The company is recreating itself and going into research and development. He argues that most small businesses are just about making a living and it’s important to encourage them.

There is lots of chat about creating jobs but MD is saying that they are kidding the viewers if talking about creating jobs. However, she says it is possible to project a good image of Ireland and attract people in that way.

DRS says we are in danger of losing our corporate tax rate.

Would any of the panel think Denis O’Brien is a suitable person to be appointed to the Council of State.

MD – who surely this question is aimed at – says any businessman is suitable.

PK takes that as a yes.

MDH says he won’t comment but he wouldn’t be on his list.

DN says MDH has given the answer for him.

SG says the Council of State is not about rewarding anyone, it’s about picking advisors. He says he wouldn’t tell anyone who would be on his Council of State.

GM takes issue with the relevance of the question. Tells PK that he takes issue with the way the programme has run. He’s very, very annoyed with PK.

PK hits back and says the applause is coming from GM’s side of the audience.

Is it me or is it getting hot in here?

PK is keeping his cool – says asking these diverse questions are giving people some idea of the candidates’ temperament.

Ooh. PK 1: GM 1.

Any regrets over the campaign asks Pat Kenny?

DRS: She regrets the “low level of reporting” and the dragging of a “family dispute” into her coverage.

SG: He has no regrets and he loves the appetite of the Irish people for the message that we are “open for business” to get out.

DN: He was lifted by the people he met – speaks of visiting a hospice and finding it put things in perspective.

MDH: Loved how young people reacted to him – they didn’t care about his chronological age.

GM: It allowed us to bring positive ideas to people.

MMcG: He’s gotten to talke about the peacemaking that has brought hope to the island.

MD: She is delighted to have met people all over the country but regrets the negative campaigning.

We’re off shortly to lay a cool face flannel on our fevered brow. How heated was that? And who came out on top? Did anyone?

We’ll leave it there folks. If you enjoyed the “non-relevant” questions that GM didn’t, you might enjoy the series of Quickfire Video Quizzes that did with the candidates (apart from Dana – she declined).

First question was: “What is the price of a standard postage stamp?”…. The answers ranged from 30-something pence to 50-something euro. Although that last one was swiftly corrected. You’ll find them all here:’s #Áras11 Quickfire Video Quiz.

Good night! Be safe out there if you’re travelling on any of those dreadfully flooded roads across the country.

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