Sunday 4 December 2016

How the leaders scored in TV debate

Published 15/02/2011 | 08:57

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THE ECONOMY

The five leaders' lack of economic expertise was cruelly highlighted in a debate that saw all of them quote figures that were plain wrong and deploy arguments that made little sense.

Enda Kenny had 250,000 people unable to pay mortgages, or five times the real figure, while John Gormley had Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan backing the bank guarantee in September 2008 -- long before he was actually appointed to the job.

With no agreement on the scale of the problem or what response is required, last night's debate saw five men talking to themselves and quickly descend into auction politics with each party promising a range of improbable or impossible benefits for jobseekers, employers and home owners.

The only thing they seemed to have in common was a feeble hope that the already much depleted National Pension Reserve Fund would pay for everything.

By throwing around spurious figures in the billions, the leaders avoided saying in plain English what they would do to save the economy.

The only consolation for viewers is that the manifesto policies of all the parties are rather better than the leaders were able to communicate yesterday.

HOW THEY RATED

12/25 Micheal Martin

8/25 Enda Kenny

10/25 Eamon Gilmore

10/25 John Gormley

8/25 Gerry Adams

LEADERSHIP ABILITY

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was the man with the most to lose going into last night's debate. "Hold it steady and just try not to mess up," must be a summation of what his advisers told him on the plane back from Berlin.

He managed to do that, but it wasn't too difficult given that there were five leaders and the format did not lend itself to anyone having too much time.

None of the leaders looked "unleaderlike", or embarrassed themselves, but neither did any one of them come out of it looking like a star. Moments of excitement were rare. It took until almost 10.40pm for a little frisson to be injected into proceedings as Mr Martin launched an attack on Mr Adams over how he "dared" to talk of fraud among politics and people in the Republic with his baggage.

Enda Kenny showed he has little reason to be afraid of the remaining two debates in the campaign and did better than expected. While Eamon Gilmore did barb at the Fianna Fail leader, he was still relatively muted. Gerry Adams had the legacy of his 2007 outing hanging over him. He wasn't wounded but the daftness of some of his party's economic policies was certainly exposed.

It's a sign of how little threat the others feel from the Greens in that no one attempted to attack John Gormley.

HOW THEY RATED

20/25 Micheal Martin

19/25 Enda Kenny

16/25 Eamon Gilmore

14/25 John Gormley

12/25 Gerry Adams

STYLE

IN a debate platform set up like 'The Weakest Link', the authoritative middleman position held by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny ensured all four leaders had to turn towards him when lodging challenges.

He steadfastly adopted a calm, confident but strident tone as he repeatedly referred to the "Fine Gael plan" and constantly reminded viewers of Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's 14-year legacy in government.

In contrast, Mr Martin adopted a robust aggressive style of debating, constantly interrupting others and talking over his opponents. His clear strategy was to attack Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, given their battle for third place in the election.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore tried to find a balance between Mr Angry and Mr Reasoned-Problem-Solver.

He performed best when turning directly to Mr Kenny, and softly repeating the same questions about growth rates and an alleged €5bn black hole.

Mr Adams , who was standing at the edge and able to talk about everyone "to my right", was populist in his answers but the most focused when giving direct answers to direct questions.

Struggling to find a role in the debate, the Green Party's John Gormley harked back to past actions and decisions, and was least engaged with the audience members asking questions.

HOW THEY RATED

12.5/25 Micheal Martin

15/25 Enda Kenny

15/25 Eamon Gilmore

10/25 John Gormley

15/25 Gerry Adams

SUBSTANCE

FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny listed off some of his party's plans to create 100,000 jobs through building new infrastructure but did not sound convincing talking about his party's banking policy.

He also relied far too much on repeating his party's 'Let's Get Ireland Working' election slogan.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was clear on how his party had opposed the state banking guarantee -- and how it made more sense to keep families in mortgage difficulty in their homes rather than putting them into social housing.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin defended his party's banking policy and asked where Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams would get the €50bn to pay the salaries of doctors, teachers and nurses if he kicked the IMF out of the country.

"You're a bit of a magician if you can pull that one off," he said.

Mr Adams sounded unconvincing when he said he didn't want anybody to suffer from cutbacks -- but he scored a hit when he criticised the severance pay and "fat pensions" of our current crop of politicians.

Green Party leader John Gormley made a good point when he said that if Fine Gael lowered the commercial rates charged to businesses, the money needs to come from somewhere -- either a water tax or a property tax.

14/25 Micheal Martin

12/25 Enda Kenny

20/25 Eamon Gilmore

13/25 John Gormley

15/25 Gerry Adams

OVERALL SCORES

58.5/100 Micheal Martin

54/100 Enda Kenny

61/100 Eamon Gilmore

47/100 John Gormley

50/100 Gerry Adams

Irish Independent

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