| 4.8°C Dublin

Debate draws FG and FF leaders closer

THE temperature in RTE's 'Prime Time' studio is nothing like the heat facing Ireland's next Taoiseach, but it's hot all the same.

Heavy make-up concealed the relative pallor or redness of Kenny, Gilmore and Martin as funereally clad Miriam O'Callaghan challenged them to make sense.

The final leaders' debate was being screened between a series about pregnancy and having babies and yet another story of Ireland's past. Would the future bring more of the same or fresh energy?

The men sat in reverse alphabetical order, with Kenny in the centre, Martin to his right, Gilmore to his left.

Kenny's position gave him a visual and psychological advantage and also influenced the way the three related.

You seat your friend to the right -- hence the well-known term 'right-hand man' -- and your opponent to the left. Kenny hadn't orchestrated it, but from the outset FG and FF looked closer together, with Gilmore commanding his own space. The more they went on, the closer FF and FG moved.

The men spoke straight to camera before O'Callaghan took them on.

Martin and Kenny performed dainty neck-tilting movements, formed to indicate empathy and listening skills. Gilmore's style had so improved since TG4 that, frown apart, his stature seemed to have grown, with open hand movements and a more upright stance than his peers.


Martin accidentally made a name slip, calling Eamon Gilmore 'Enda' before correcting himself.

Martin resisted his balletic instincts to move across the table and take the debate over. His papers, spread haphazardly over the gleaming table, looked more scattered than he tried to appear.

O'Callaghan and Kenny tended to withdraw from each other at first, pulling back in their chairs when the other spoke. Kenny's style was dipping. His head tended to drop infinitesimally, so that his chin withdrew, subtly diminishing his authority. An index finger held his mouth shut as O'Callaghan pressed on.

And the question, as this set piece reached its conclusion, was about colour -- the blues of a mournful mood or a rhapsody about about new skies ahead.

Irish Independent