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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Candidates promise to take Irish lessons, just like McAleese

How they rated

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

Michael D Higgins 8/10

As the only fluent Irish speaker and the man who set up TG4 as a government minister, he couldn't go wrong. And he pointedly said that every citizen had a right to deal with the president's office in Irish -- and have a president who could speak Irish abroad. Had a bash at Sean Gallagher by talking about him favouring a "speculative economy". Pledged not to take his Oireachtas pension as president.

Sean Gallagher 5/10

He pledged that if elected, he and his wife would undertake an intensive Irish course like Mary McAleese. Said he would like to make the national anthem "less militaristic". But not a comfortable experience for him, as candidates lined up to attack him. David Norris said he had not spoken out about the economy while on the Fianna Fail national executive. He replied that it was an organisational body that didn't deal with policy.

Gay Mitchell 5/10

Like other candidates, he pledged to become fluent in Irish, like Mrs McAleese. Cleverly linked the "prosperity and happiness" in the 1916 Proclamation to his campaign against suicide, saying he wanted to know why so many people were taking their own lives and suffering from bullying. Less aggressive -- but still got in a bash at Martin McGuinness. Not a good enough performance to restore any momentum to his campaign.

Martin McGuinness 6/10

Said he was totally opposed to changing the national anthem. Said he would use his experience to get jobs as he had done in "the six counties". Lighthearted moment when he talked about his poems on sea trout. Dodged question on whether it was "wrong" for IRA to use the Oglaigh na hEireann title of the Irish Army. But said the IRA was gone and he would give the Irish Army his full support.

Mary Davis 5/10

Was a marginal figure in the debate. Said she wanted an inclusive society by 2016 -- the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. Promised to repair the country's "tarnished" reputation abroad. Defended her role on 24 boards, saying that 18 of them were voluntary and she had always acted with integrity. We found out that she likes to juggle and sing The Monkees' 'I'm A Believer' as her party pieces.

David Norris 7/10

"Daithi" Norris had his most relaxed appearance to date -- because the tricky issues which have dogged his campaign did not come up. Took on several rivals, saying Michael D Higgins voted for the 1993 tax amnesty. Outlined his plan to use the President's income to invite each county to the Aras within 26 months. Said he was a "24-carat Independent" who had been totally cleaned out of his savings by the campaign.

Dana Rosemary Scallon 4/10

Was more composed during this debate -- and repeatedly vowed to protect Irish sovereignty. Said she would hate to see 'Amhran na bhFiann' changed. When asked about the family row that has dominated her campaign, she said she didn't regret standing for what she knew to be right. She still sings 'All Kinds of Everything' as a party piece, but trailed behind all the other candidates in terms of her contributions last night.

Irish Independent

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