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"I won't refer to your inexperience...": Noonan channels Reagan after Doherty raises age in TV debate

The Sinn Féin TD raised the Finance Minister’s age during a row in a panel debate on the Budget.

MICHAEL NOONAN ECHOED a well-known line from Ronald Reagan last night, after Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty brought up the Finance Minister’s age in a TV debate.

The two politicians were part of a Prime Time panel discussing yesterday’s Budget. The exchange arose from a row between Doherty and the veteran Fine Gael TD over how often Sinn Féin voted in support of the Government in the Dáil.

“We vote with the Government and you should know that Michael,” Doherty said.

I know you’re pushing on in years but you’re still smart up there.

“You know that we’ve voted for the Government on many occasions… And you know that Michael.”

noonan1 Source: RTÉ Prime Time

Noonan responded:

I don’t think that we should make age an issue. If you don’t make age an issue I won’t refer to your inexperience and immaturity.

Reagan’s 1984 debate with Democrat challenger Walter Mondale was best known for the line:

I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.

Source: lawford83/YouTube

The Republican’s quip followed a question on whether, at 73, he was too old to be President.

The perfectly-delivered line (Reagan was an actor, after all) was even met with a laugh from his opponent, and the incumbent US president went on to win by a landslide.

There were muted gasps and murmerings of ‘ohhhh’ last night when Doherty raised the age issue, and Noonan’s response was met with applause.

As the debate continued, Doherty said the Limerick politician – who also happens to be 73 – was the “master of the soundbite”.

‘Wimping out’  

There had been been an ill-tempered exchange between the pair earlier in the programme too when the Sinn Féín TD claimed the Fine Gael minister had “wimped out” of a head-to-head debate.

The host, David McCullagh, told the two men to stick to the issue of the Budget itself, but Noonan in his response instead chose to give more detail on the background of his opponent’s accusation:

He’s making a point and I think I should tell why I didn’t do a head-to-head with him – because for years I have been finance spokesperson and for my sixth year now I have been Finance Minister and always the debate on Prime Time was with the finance spokesman of the biggest party in opposition. That’s Michael McGrath [of Fianna Fáil].

Said Doherty:

But Michael McGrath isn’t opposing the Budget, he’s not opposing the Budget. He went crying to you and you wimped out.

“You’re punishing him for being responsible,” Noonan shot back, before an exasperated McCullagh cut in:

In fairness, I think the people at home are probably more interested with what’s in the Budget.

Read: Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to face tough questions over whistleblowers >

Read: Does Budget 2017 protect the Irish economy from Brexit? >

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