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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Head-to-head in disability debate: Gallagher v Higgins

How the two leading candidates fared at the Inclusion Ireland disability debate in the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday:

Sean Gallagher (Independent)

Personal appearance: 6/10

Energetic and dressed in black suit, white shirt and striped blue tie. Spoke rapidly without notes as usual due to his visual impairment.

Substance: 3/10

Referred to his role as the patron of the Irish Association of Supported Employment, and to his youth work with the National Council for the Blind. But didn't have much more to add beyond his own story.

Style: 6/10

Much more personal than Michael D, talked about how he was born nearly blind and how teachers thought he wouldn't amount to anything. Got a clap when he said he went on to hand in his presidential nomination papers. "My story is about being the living embodiment of what you can do with the right supports". Great if you've never heard it before.

Communication: 7/10

Told an effective personal story about the brother of his wife Trish, who has Down Syndrome. "Kev" is able to work three days a week in his local SuperValu supermarket, where he calls the customers his friends. "Kev creates change in customers that he meets," he said.

Reception from audience: 8/10

Warm applause -- and personal stories went down particularly well.

Gallagher total: 30

Michael D Higgins (Labour)

Personal appearance: 5/10

Bright-eyed and alert in his grey suit, lilac shirt and floral tie. Spoke without notes and recovered well when he was told he had five minutes instead of seven.

Substance: 7/10

He was the only candidate to focus on the fact that Ireland had not ratified the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which has been in force for three years.

Style: 6/10

Generously paid tribute to Mary Davis for her work in this area -- which Mr Gallagher didn't. Was quicker to pick up on the idea of a president visiting private and voluntary centres for people with disability to highlight the lack of state inspections.

Communication: 4/10

Over-complex at times when talking about a "capacities model", "support circles" and "moral suasion". Talked about one of his former students, Gerard Quinn, who was a social policy lecturer but didn't explain this man is now the director of the Centre of Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway.

Reception from audience: 6/10

Good clap -- but he was harder to follow than Gallagher at times and didn't get the audience involved like Mary Davis did.

Higgins total: 28

Irish Independent

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