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Good evening all. Are we ready for Take 2 on the Presidential TV debates.

Vincent Browne has already forgotten to introduce Gay Mitchell. This is going to be the CRAIC.

Mary Davis is in like Flynn accusing Fine Gael of dirty tricks. Gay Mitchell says it’s not him and David Norris says negative campaigning is a waste of time. Norris says he has been at the “leading edge” of negative campaigning all his life. I think he means at the wrong end of it.

Dana is more interested in the negative equity some people are stuck in, not negative campaigning.

Re. the first blog update, I’m not referring to any particular Flynn. Perhaps Errol Flynn – he was pretty quick on the draw.

Seán Gallagher wants to “raise the level of the debate” and not focus on negative campaigning. “Hear hear,” chimes David Norris.

Michael D Higgins wants to talk about whether people understand the limits as well as the possibilites of the presidency.

How are we liking the freeform debate here? Too frenetic? Exciting? Are the stand-up lecterns a sneaky test of the candidates’ physical stamina?

Martin McGuinness (MMcG) is vying for the title of Most Negatively Campaigned Against candidate tonight. It seems several candidates consider themselves up for the gong.

David Norris (DN) says his outsider status leaves him with something in common with MMcG.

DN saw an eviction in Dublin city centre in the past few weeks. When asked if he would live on an industrial wage, he says he would put a major portion aside but isn’t “foolish” enough to let it go back into the Exchequer.

Gay Mitchell (GM) says MMcG’s salary last year was €200,000. MMcG denies this and says his £112,000 salary as Deputy Prime Minister went back to his party.

GM is getting annoyed now. Or at least making the hand gestures of annoyance. He asks MMcG why he didn’t give that money to Trócaire and not to the “party machine” of Sinn Féin.

MMcG reminds the candidates that he and Peter Robinson emerged as the largest political force in Northern Ireland because the electorate there did not rise to the negative criticism of their political rivals.

Dana changes the subject to the banks. Her well-thumbed copy of the Irish Constitution is out.

Michael D Higgins (MDH) points out that the Presidency can’t do anything about the banks guarantee. It would have to go to referendum.

Wait! MDH also has a copy of the Irish Constitution on his lectern. Do all the candidates? Let me know if you spot another one.

Mary Davis (MD) says the three-pronged role of the President is maintaining the Constitution, the ambassadorial role and the discretional role. The discretional role has a great deal of power she says. She wants to represent us internationally and bring jobs in, set up conventions about health/literacy/young people/old people.

Seán Gallagher (SG) wants to know why the other candidates wouldn’t take him up on the one-leaflet campaign “and save the taxpayer €10m. “That is leadership,” he says.

GM says, I wrote back and said bring it on. (Or something similar). He turns on MD and says she has the perception of the Presidential role wrong, that the President has the power to address the Dáil and Seanad and take them to task.

Vincent Browne challenges him on this, saying he needs Govt approval for anything like that.

SG says only Dana Rosemary Scallon responded in the positive that all their leaflets be put in the one envelope.

MD adds her commitment to that now.

VB asks GM about spending €33,000 on posters in the last European election. GM mentions those pleading printers’ employees who are crying out for work.

DN reads out the positive message he picked up from Knocknaheeny, Cork trip today. Never give up. A lesson for us all, I’m sure you’ll agree. So now.

More anecdotes from MMcG about his friendship with Peter Robinson. They were on a trade mission to the US on the day his candidacy was announced. He wants to use the Presidency to target foreign investment.

DRS congratulates MMcG on his good work on bringing jobs to the Titanic Quarter. But she says Europe is going to stymie the Republic of Ireland’s ability to bring in those jobs if it tries to stamp on our corporation tax rate.

VB asks once again: What can the President do about that? How can the President resist that?

DRS says the President can challenge a bill that might “rewrite our Constitution”.

MDH says that a review of the Constitution as mentioned by Labour is what is necessary after 75 years. He wants DRS to stop talking over him.

MDH doesn’t like some things in the Constitution but says it is that Constitution under which they are all running for office.

He mentions an “interesting” piece written by VB that seemed to suggest MDH wants to extend the power of the Presidency. Timely cutaway by TV3′s director to a sighing VB.

MD wants to focus on what she can do. Draw on the “global Irish” and investment.

Is ‘diaspora’ no longer a Presidential buzzword? Just wondering.

GM not impressed by Eurosceptics../scepticissssm../scept… by people who are not big fans of Europe.

MMcG back on why he put money back into Sinn Féin. On IRA membership, he says no-one is bothered by it on the streets. It certainly wasn’t an issue when he was in ministerial roles in Northern Ireland, he says. It’s the people behind GM who have made it an issue to give GM something to talk about, says MMcG. Camera cuts to a smiling GM. The cutaways on TV3 tonight are awesome.

VB has his own books under his desk. (He has a proper desk. And a chair). He is using a reef of books to refute MMcG’s assertion that only one author – Ed Moloney – is claiming that MMcG was still in the IRA after 1974.

VB’s killer punch: I covered Northern Ireland in the 1970s and that would have been my understanding.

Apologies: that ‘killer punch’ phrasejust there was not intended to be a pun. It’s too serious an issue to joke about, really.

VB: “I know you were a member of the IRA”.

MMcG: “How do you know?”

VB: “Because people close to you told me.” He asks how people can trust MMcG to tell the truth on other issues if he’s lying about this one.

MMcG: Because I risked my life on some occasions to achieve “the miracle of the North”.

MMcG made a heartfelt speech there about the consequences of his work in Northern Ireland.

MD makes an intervention between VB and MMcG saying she’s tired of the debate being monopolised by the focus on one individual.

GM says he appreciates MMcG’s role in the peace process but that he is not convinced by MMcG’s “fairytale”.

DN says the bickering is “disillusioning” and he doesn’t care who MMcG was related to. He wants to move on.

SG is “disappointed” by the level and tone of the debate. He wants to look to the future. RDS says she is too.

Looks like VB’s line of questioning on MMcG is being stamped down by (most) of the others.

Whoops for SG. He’s turned the spotlight on himself so VB wants to know why he is distancing himself from Fianna Fáil.

VB says that SG was at the “inner core” of FF “while they ravaged the country”.

VB to SG: Why would people want to vote for someone who is branded Fianna Fáil.

SG: This is not about party politics. I am not standing for any party.

Cut to Vincent Browne’s Big Fat Ad Break.

Thank goodness. My ears are ringing. Again, that question I posed for you earlier – is the free(ish) form style of debate working for you?

Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Aaannnd we’re back. DRS got least speaking time in the first half so she’s up first. She is NOT anti-Europe, OK?

She wants to return to the Irish Constitution, says Labour wants to rewrite it (MDH is shaking his head). GM taking issue with her take on what happened in Europe and her take on things happening behind closed doors. She says the people need an independent they can trust.

Has any one of the candidates got that as a slogan? “An independent you can trust”? They should have. Catchy.

DN makes a point that he is the only person on the candidates’ panel who has actually used the Constitution to defend his rights. He’s referring to his court battle to legalise homosexuality in Ireland. Interesting point.

Labour is not spinning a “conspiracy” to change the Constitution-  it’s saying it needs a review after 75 years, says MDH.

VB tells MDH that he has never been “a person of independence” and that under the Rainbow coalition with FF, he had stood over a budget that was good for the rich.

MDH counters that he was a campaigner, lost his seat when campaigning for women’s rights alongside Jimmy Kenny.

He looks to DN for support, saying he most recently campaigned for DN’s right to run for the President – DN duly gives it.

Back to MD and which State boards she served on. She says she has served on 24 boards, many not-for-profit, but some were private.

VB: “You have done quite well financially, so don’t give the poor mouth.” He quotes the €150,000 she earns working for a “charity”, namely Special Olympics. She counters that it is Special Olympics International and she is managing a big business there.

Email just in to Journal Towers: “VinB for President. He’s destroying this lot.”

The issue of GM’s comment about wanting to throw himself off O’Connell Bridge because he was being asked to smile so much is brought up. He downplays it and explains why suicide is a major issue he would like to tackle.

SG: This is not a competition for what people have done in the past. It’s about what they will do in the future.

VB: People look to what you have done in the past to see what you will be able to do in the future. Your credentials are even “thinner” than Gm’s.

SG: I refute the presumption that you need to have been a politician to empathise and connect and be President. Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson were not junior ministers.

SG wants to be a flare for Ireland for industry.

In case you’ve forgotten, anyone for Presidential Election Bingo? Dingdingdingding!

DRS backs up GM on suicide being a massive priority for the country. MMcG says it needs to be an all-Ireland approach to suicide. And that an all-Ireland approach to a range of issues would be helpful. Derry city and Donegal both feel neglected. He wants to see an all-island economy that can work for mutual benefit.

DN wants to come in on the suicide issue. MMcG asks him for another minute to speak. DN concedes, “Absolutely”.

The last point MMcG wants to make on all-island angle is that upcoming celebrations/commemmorations also be respected on all parts of the island. He would like to see a Decade of National Reconciliation from 2012.

VB wants to know if MMcG will play a part in truth and reconciliation. Mostly the truth bit says VB. Enter Vincent Browne grin™.

GM wants to know what could the President and the Queen of England do together in Northern Ireland to bring communities together. Says he has ideas for this too, even if he doesn’t agree on other things with MMcG.

Just noticed that DNS is taking lots of notes.

DN says he seconded the bill that decriminalised suicide.

As someone from a “mixed background” says DN – his father was English and fought in WWI but his mother was Irish – it would bring him great delight to read out “those thrilling words of the Proclamation” at the GPO on 1916 anniversary and cherish the children of the nation equally.

VB says DN is “ambiguous” on age of consent. DN says he won’t stand for this line and that he “abhors” abuse of children.

The Letters. That took a while. VB wants to know why he won’t disclose the other clemency letters written in defence of DN’s former partner Ezra Nawi.

VB asks who gave the legal advice to DN to not disclose the letters. DN calls it an “extraordinary question” and accuses VB of trying to make “good television” and won’t answer the question. “I think I have answered all the questions on that…” Well, you haven’t, says VB. VB says he spoke to the law faculty at Tel Aviv University this morning and they said that the letters could only be held back on a legal basis if the victim was named or details from an in camera proceedings were mentioned. (In camera means a case on which reporting is not allowed – this wasn’t the case with the Nawi case, according to VB).

DN says lawyers differ all the time and the advice VB got is not necessarily definitive.

DN: My conscience is clear and let the people judge. The people on the campaign trail are not interested on this.

And then DN says that VB was one of the thousands of people who signed the petition for DN to re-enter the race for the Áras and thanks him.

VB says nothing and turns to MMcG on the murder of Lord Mountbatten on a boat off Sligo. You never condemned it at the time says VB – nor of the massacre of 18 British soldiers in Warrenpoint on the same day.

MMcG says that if there is any embarrassment with the British if he is made President, it won’t be just on his side as people were killed on both sides of the divide.

And that’s the rather abrupt end to Vincent Browne’s Big Presidential Debate.

VB is back at 11pm with his normal Tonight with Vincent Browne Show. The candidates are all probably off to find a cool, dark place for a lie-down.

As a complete aside, can anyone confirm that MDH was standing on a box? Not being smart – we were so busy typing here and trying to keep an eye on random copies of books and Constitutions flying around the studio, we didn’t spot it.

And they all looked so fresh on the way in:

All pictures thanks to Sasko Lazarov of Photocall Ireland outside TV3 studios tonight

And the AFTER pic. Actually, they look like they’ve recovered. Thanks to Tony Kinlan for this photograph:

Alright then, electorate. The party’s over (we’ll leave the #vinb analysis to you guys).

Tune into another Presidential debate liveblog on Monday, 17 October, when we’ll be turning our attention to RTE1 and Pat Kenny as he puts the candidates on the Frontline. See what we did there?

However, we MAY have another debate in the interim. It won’t be on TV but it we are hearing reports it might be a good one. And in a nightclub. We’ll let you know more in due course.

Goodnight and good luck.

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