Sunday 8 December 2019

Tánaiste on first TV debate of the election: 'It's the political Oscars but less fun'

Joan Burton at the TV3/Newstalk debate tonight.
Joan Burton at the TV3/Newstalk debate tonight.
Barry Lennon

Barry Lennon

Tanaiste Joan Burton described the first TV debate of the election as the “political Oscars but less fun".

While Taoiseach Enda Kenny took the opportunity on tonight's TV3/Newstalk Leaders Debate to say that voters had a choice: between “forward direction or backward direction.”

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin said he'd been looking forward to the debate for a long time and said “Ireland needed a fairer society.”

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who was last to arrive at TV3 headquarters, arrived in his campaign bus because he said: “I can use the bus lanes this way.”  

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attacked Gerry Adams and Michael Martin on economics during tonight's heated party leaders debate on TV3 tonight.

The Fine Gael leader was criticising plans to remove water charges and wider measures, saying to Adams, “you'd wreck our economy. And this man (Micheál Martin) has ruined it in the past.

In the first televised debate of the General Election, moderated by Newstalk 106-108 fm Pat Kenny and TV3’s Colette Fitzpatrick, Mr Kenny asked Mr Adams “to do the maths,” questioning his plans to hire more medical workers.

Mr Martin hit back, saying that had “some neck to talk as he's talked.” 

Tánaiste Joan Burton challenged Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams on crime saying “he is living on another planet.”

“I don't know what planet Gerry Adams is living on by having a witness protection programme in place of the Special Criminal Court,” she said.

“For a man who's auditioning to be Taoiseach, this is appalling.”

Mr Adams responded saying, “it's a fairy tale” and said that “Politicians could learn a lot from the Unionists, who distrusted us much more before.”

Mr Kenny said he “deplored” the threat made to INM journalists and claimed that Mr Adams was not “telling the whole truth,” when it came to his knowledge of terrorist activity.

The outgoing Government parties appear divided on the abortion ban during the debate.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny did not commit to repeal of the ban but proposed “people's convention to review” the law.

“We know more far more about the trauma that fatal fetal abnormality brings,” Mr Kenny said

However Labour leader Joan Burton, who's party has committed to a referendum on the issue wouldn't say how she would convince current partners Fine Gael.

“We've been talking about this for 30 years. I speak as a mother,” she said.

Micheál Martin defended Fianna Fáil's record on social housing saying “it's a terrible untruth to say we ended social housing”

Mr Martin hit Labour's Joan Burton over the housing crisis saying “put your head in the sand ever since” her party started in Government.

“What was housing problem became a housing crisis,” Mr Martin said.

Taoiseach pointed out that Fianna Fail had created “300 ghost estates.”

Taoiseach claims viewers the winners

When the debate was finished, Taoiseach Enda Kenny claimed that the viewers “were the winners” of tonight's TV3 leaders debate.

He said “people at home” won because they make the “ultimate decision” in the General Election, speaking afterwards.

The debate was marred by shouting and leaders talking over one another.

Mr Kenny said the  debate “set out what the alternatives are” and the other parties were “chaotic to put it mildly.”

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams called the TV3 Leaders Debate a “punch and judy show” saying he “stayed out of some of the debate because he couldn't be heard.”

Mr Adams was confident about his own performance saying “people with open minds would been impressed by my argument.”

Leaders from four of the major parties took part; Mr Kenny (FG), Joan Burton (Labour), Michael Martin (Fianna Fail) Mr Adams (SF).

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