TheJournal.ie brings you live debate from all the presidential debates, minute by point-scoring minute. NOW: Live from RTE1′s Late Late Show.
Good evening! Are we all ready for the first television debate between the seven Presidential candidates?
If that’s a yes, you’re in the right place as we liveblog you through the point-scoring on Late Late Show on RTÉ1. If it’s a no, A Few Good Men is on over on RTÉ2. We’re sure it’s a pure scheduling coincidence. Sure of it.
Jedward have/has just made an interesting suggestion – should all seven Presidential candidates be elected and live in the Áras together?
Reminds us of this – but who would be John Boy?
Have you TheJournal.ie’s Presidential election bingo cards to hand?
Some phrases to watch out for… “Nelson Mandela”; “People’s president”; “I met a young unemployed man the other day… (heavy sigh)”
Gay Mitchell is up first. He wants to be President because he has experience, “fighting spirit” and grew up in Ireland in difficult circumstances.
Gay Mitchell (GM) outlining his experience on Oireachtas committee, as Lord Mayor securing major literature awards for Ireland – this is all about his innovation, he contends. Oh yes, and he suggested we bring the Olympics to Ireland at that time.
The Olympics didn’t come to Ireland but hell, he gave it a shot.
Ryan Tubridy: You were not the first choice of your Fine Gael party.
Gay Mitchell: Young Fine Gael did, the councillors did and now the “backroom boys are breaking their backs for me”.
GM brings up the issue of suicide as his closing point – he wants to pursue such issues not in a party political way.
Next is Martin McGuinness. He wants to run for President to defend the ordinary people of Ireland. The bulk of the salary would go “back to the people”, namely those unidentified “six young unemployed” people who McGuinness would take off the dole queue.
Leadership essential – and I’ve shown it at Stormont, says Martin McGuinness (MMcG).
MMcG says the President should stand up and “embarrass” those people who “drove the economy into the ground”. The big issue for him appears to be addressing the gap between rich and poor.
The reprieve from the IRA question didn’t last long. Ryan Tubridy comes at it from a different angle: Why did you abandon the IRA at the height of the Troubles. Well that’s a new way of coming at it.
MMcG says he has never apologised for being in the IRA and that he left in 1974. Ryan Tubridy: People say you are not telling the truth. MMcG: It’s not an issue for ordinary people. What is an issue for them is that I was central to the peace process.
Here comes Mary Davis now. From Kiltimagh in Mayo. We’d forgotten that. That’s where Louis Walsh is from.
Back to business: Mary Davis (MD) is proud of her track record with volunteers and Special Olympics. And today is National Volunteering Day, so that’s timely.
Ryan Tubridy (RT): What Presidential qualities have you got? MD says she is restless (in a good way), enthusiastic, passionate – and there are many issues she wants to embrace.
“I believe in people… I believe in the power of people.”
The boards/quango question aimed at MD. My first one was the Sports Council, and I was appointed by the Rainbow government, she says.
MD: “I am totally an independent candidate. I have no political affiliations”.
RT turns that back on her – does that mean you don’t have political experience. MD right back at him – I am a persuader, I make things happen. If that makes a politician, then yes, I am a politician.
Ooooo. Competition time on the Late Late. What’s the prize?
Two weeks in Florida, then one week luxury cruise in the Bahamas. And no, you don’t have to bring any Presidential candidate with you. Score.
While we’re making the tea during the ads, a quick shoutout to Aisling Nolan – @AislingNolan_x on Twitter – who is living in Prague and is raging that she can’t see the TV coverage of the Presidential election. But then she found TheJournal.ie’s liveblog. Nice. Hi Aisling.
Dana Rosemary Scallon (DRS) is on first after the break. She’s changed out of the dress she arrived in studios with, into a more regal purple jacket.
She’s focusing on her ability to protect Ireland’s sovereignty after her European experiences as an MEP.
Dana speaking about how she spoke for the ordinary people during Nice and Lisbon.
“We didn’t go to Europe as beggars. We gave Europe our fishing rights.” DRS sounding rather angry with Europe.
DRS on changes to the EU Treaty – would she send it to the Supreme Court to test its constitutionality?
“You bet your boots I would”.
Some applause from the audience – RT reminds them this isn’t an applauding scenario.
No! DRS *almost* said “all kinds of everything”. But she didn’t.
She concludes that she “brought the truth back to the people”.
Seán Gallagher is on now and he wants to help the country get back on its feet. What qualifies him? His life – in farming and youth work – has been about developing confidence in others.
He wants Ireland’s young people to be here, not emigrating. He invokes the name of Mary McAleese: wants to do for employment what she did for peace.
RT: You can’t create jobs as a President.
SG: I can create a culture for creating jobs.
It’s all about confidence-creating. It starts in schools in Transition Year.
(Aren’t they thinking of getting rid of Transition Year in schools?)
To clarify that last post – The first line was Seán Gallagher’s. The second was mine.
SG remembers being unemployed twice in the 1980s. I’ve been there, I know about the loss of status and confidence. I understand that “we in this country have to get out there” and create confidence and belief in ourselves.
Michael D Higgins now. He knows he would be an “inspirational” President. He wants an “inclusive citizenship”. He wants to make progress in establishing a “real republic” and in “redefining Irishness”.
Reminds us again that he’s covered 23,000kms since April. It’s good we have the metric system. That would be less in miles.
Michael D Higgins (MDH) says it’s important to be open about the values you hold.
MDH’s commitment to “the public space” is discussed and he speaks of his long record of defending the arts and Irish culture. He has vision and independence of mind, he has courage, says MDH.
RT asks how an independent spirit like MDH would cope with the constraints of being President. MDH says he knows how legislation works and how the office works. He says he will exercise discretion but will set up a set of seminars in which issues can be discussed.
Put the kettle on, crack open the beer, get the biscuit tin. The six candidates have had their soapbox moment. After the ad break: the debate.
Anyone who hasn’t heard RT explain why David Norris didn’t get a mini-interview tonight, we reported on it here earlier. Essentially, he got his run-out two weeks ago when he was interviewed on the Late Late so for sake of balance, he won’t be repeating it tonight. He will, however, be part of the debate which is coming up now.
First question is whether the President’s salary should be reduced.
Gay Mitchell: It should be. No specifics.
Dana Rosemary Scallon: I’m happy to go with whatever the Government thinks.
Seán Gallagher: He is happy to go with an amount appropriate to the work. But talk of the salary is a bit of a gimmick, he says.
Mary Davis: She’d also leave it up to the Government.
David Norris: The vast majority of his salary he would put in an independent fund because he doesn’t trust the State not to mismanage it. The money would fund a celebration in every county around the country.
Michael D Higgins: He has no difficulty with a change in salary, He will not be taking any pension which he would be entitled to for the duration of the Presidency. (If he was Pres, that is).
Martin McGuinness: He is prepared to do the job for a great deal less. He gave a good tranche of his Deputy First Minister salary back (to Sinn Féin). The vast bulk of his salary as President would go to those six unemployed young people.
How much have you spent on your Presidential campaign?
DRS: She can’t remember what she spent on her campaign 14 years ago. She will be funding from public donations. She won’t be asking for money for posters because “people know what I look like”.
SG: He claims his will be the least amount spent in this campaign because he won’t be putting posters up. On lamp-posts anyway. He puts €200,000 on it. He’s happy to get donations from the public.
MD: She says it will probably have to spend more than Seán because she has to put up posters. People don’t know me “because I’m not a celebrity or a politician”. It could come from €300,000 to €350,000. She and her husband took out a personal loan to get it started but there is fundraising. One such event was a parachute jump called ‘Falling for Mary’.
She’s asked if Denis O’Brien is supporting her campaign financially. She says he can give a donation up to €2,500 as any citizen can, and that is all he has given.
DN: He says he is heading into an overdraft and would be grateful for any donations because he doesn’t have a “party machine” behind him. He doesn’t have any corporation donations, yet.
MDH: He says his budget is €321,000. He is also saying he put some of his own money in there to start it off.
GM: In the region of €350,000 is his warchest. He’s saying spending on posters etc. is not all negative as it keeps people in business.
MMcG: “Less than Gay or Michael D.” is MMcG’s initial response to the question. It depends on what fundraising efforts bring in – he mentions that people from the States have been offering donations. Mentions that he lives on “300 pounds a week” so can’t put in much of his own.
Seán Gallagher the first to want to come back in rather than wait to be asked a question. He says the poster issue is important. Gay Mitchell saus people out there are “pleading with us” to give them printing work.
Michael D Higgins says the office of the Presidency has to be taken seriously and to not allow people to hear from candidates (through election literature) would be undemocractic.
Dana Rosemary Scallon asked why she’s back in. She says she has a real passion to defend the people. She says she really does want to be President.
RT asks her about her comment to Seán O’Rourke on RTE Radio1′s News at One that she would have to learn on the job. She sticks by that and says it’s important to keep learning.
Seán Gallagher is asked about his Fianna Fáil affiliations. Says he did youth work with them and ran election campaigns for two highly-regarded politicians in the past but was never a politician. But he’s not “distancing” himself from the party or its followers.
Martin McGuinness asked why he didn’t consider it appropriate to attend the State dinner hosted by President McAleese for Queen Elizabeth I. His party thought it not appropriate at the time, but if he was President he would take it on board that it would be part of the role.
MMcG liked that the Queen spoke Irish at the dinner and that she went to the Garden of Remembrance. Well, he didn’t say liked, he said he “found it interesting”. But he’s smiling as he says it so it seems a positive thing.
Gay Mitchell drops the first direct punch on another candidate by saying Martin McGuinness is a terrible “name-dropper” (Mandela) etc.
GM takes issue with MMcG on what he calls the country he wants to be President of. Says he calls it the 26 Counties instead of Ireland. MMcG refutes that.
GM says he is a nationalist – and says people shouldn’t be called West Brits when the role is about uniting people.
GM is being asked by Ryan if he is not on the backfoot in the polls when he should be leading them as the FG candidate. He says polls are not a good indicator of eventual results.
A question about a letter of clemency now…. but it’s to GM not David Norris. GM says yes, he has written letters looking for clemency for convicted people but it was a question of human rights.
Asked about The Letters, David Norris brings out a letter sent to him (well, an email) by RTÉ about seating arrangements which has a confidentiality warning at the end. He’s using it to say that the point is, he can’t release information which might affect someone else (the victim).
“Let’s park this”, he says, and “let me talk about my vision”.
He claims we’ve had an election but they’ve just changed jerseys and nothing has changed for the Irish people. “The interests of the establishment and the preservation of the system” have been put above the people.
First bit of Gaeilge is dropped, naturally, by Michael D Higgins. It’s a segue into his “independence of mind” point – that he’s not ruled by the Labour Party.
Mary Davis under the spotlight now: What else have you achieved outside of the Special Olympics?
She has worked in China and seen the power of the President – the president of China put his arm around a child with Down Syndrome at the Special Olympics and that sent a major message to his country. That’s the power of a head of state, she says.
She mentions serving on the Council of State, which counsels the President (of Ireland, not China). It has met four times since she has been on it.
MD reasserts her position that she would like to change the name of her potential new home from Áras an Úachtaráin to Áras na Daoine.
RT asks if MDH had not wanted to run previously for the Áras in 2004. Well, yes, but really because I wanted to give direction to the country.
On seeing out the full seven years of the Presidential term, MDH says he broke his knee cap on a humanitarian mission last year but that he’s fit and well.
DRS asked about the possibility that priests would be asked to break the seal of confession to report child abuse allegations. Would she sign in such a law? She says Constitution protects freedom of religion and that it does not break the seal of the confessional.
She’s getting annoyed at Ryan for putting her in the box of “being the mouthpiece of the Catholic Church”. “Why are you putting this (question) to me?”
Ryan T asks Seán Gallagher the same question about breaking the seal of the confessional.
Point blank, SG says it should be broken in those circumstances.
Martin McGuinness asked the same question: he also believes it should be broken in those circumstances. He is “absolutely disappointed” as a Catholic in the fact that the bishops haven’t even met to discuss the Cloyne report.
Mary Davis “absolutely” believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry and adopt children.
Seán Gallagher is “not sure” about the “adoption issue” for same-sex couples because he doesn’t feel informed enough about the effect on children. “That’s not a bias”, he says, “I’m just not informed enough” to decide.
David Norris asks why he wasn’t asked about the priests. So Ryan asks him.
He “abhors” child abuse, and that it is clear that the rule of Church must be subservient to the rule of law as set by the Oireachtas.
Gay Mitchell wants more accountability for money wastage in the Oireachtas.
DRS – cheered on by DN – says that the guaranteeing of the banks has been the most influential piece of legislation passed in 7 years because it has caused such suffering.
The seven candidates are allowed to speak a final summation of what they have to offer as President of Ireland:
Michael D Higgins: I have the skills, the vision, I have experience of tolerance, and have a record of performance. I love Ireland and I am deeply committed to “its potential, its skills, its genius”.
Seán Gallagher: I want to bring the same youth and dynamism that has been seen in the Presidency over the last 21 years. I bring experience, I will lead trade missions to attract business and tourism. I will work to bridge the gap between community and enterprise together. I wants young people to come back to Ireland with confidence.
Dana Rosemary Scallon: You can trust me to protect the Constitution and the people. I have experience in the European parliament. “I respect everyone that I meet.”
Mary Davis: “I want to demonstrate that people matter, all people mattter.” Respect and dignity to every single person. I want to work with our global Irish and to repair our reputation abroad. In my first 100 days, she would contact the Taoiseach to see how best he could put me to use as an ambassador.
Martin McGuinness: We need a new Ireland, a new republic, and a new leader. I have been central to some of the most important agreements on the island – I want to bring that unifying experience to the Áras. And also to the “brokenness of people”.
David Norris: I’ve made a comeback, I’ve shown it can be done – “I believe I can bring the country with me.” Mental health aware, enterprise, culture – those are three cornerstone missions of my campaign.
Gay Mitchell: I have a fighting spirit. I worked on the floor of the Inchicore Works as a young man and went to college at night – you can see Inchicore Works from the study of the Áras – I will make my country proud at this very difficult time.
And that’s it folks. The first live television debate of the Presidential 2011 campaign. There wasn’t much infighting – but perhaps that’s a difficult ask with so many candidates in one space.
If you’d like to review the body language of the evening, here are some shots of the debate in action:
And some more…
Thanks for joining us here at SleepyTowers… sorry, TheJournal.ie. Our next liveblog is on Tuesday night when I’ll be here to guide you through Vincent Browne’s Big Fat Presidential Election Debate* on TV3.
*May not be actual title of programme.
PS: All the photographs from the Late Late Show tonight came courtesy of Kyran O’Brien/KOPIX