Friday 20 September 2019

Michael D’s elevating debate: He was standing on a box reporters

LABOUR’S Presidential candidate Michael D Higgins got a little extra help on last night’s TV3 debate – he stood on a box to give himself added stature against his six competitors.

The former Minister, who is the shortest of the seven candidates and the oldest at 70, appeared on screen to be of a similar height.

Today his secret weapon was revealed – a little lift from a step placed before his lectern.

Commentators agreed that Mr Higgins emerged well from the encounter with Vincent Browne and he scored the highest at 7/10 in the Irish Independent ratings.

The candidate ratings:

Martin McGuinness 6/10

He came under an early attack from Gay Mitchell about his IRA past and the Sinn Fein ‘propaganda machine’ and more. He trotted out the unconvincing line that “nobody is worried about when I left the IRA”. But he dismissed the Fine Gael claim that he would threaten foreign investment by pointing to his track record as a deputy first minister.

Mary Davis 6/10

Quickly tackled Fine Gael head on about allegations that the party had tested negative campaign messages about her. Despite asking Gay Mitchell about this she was soon lost in the din created by David Norris, Martin McGuinness and Mitchell. She tended to stand back and seemed unwilling to mix it with the other candidates. Also stuck mainly to pre prepared messages.

Michael D Higgins 7/10

He was quickest to get his spiel across about the need for a President who can restore trust. And there was an early dig at two of his rivals. He said there was a need for someone who understood what a president could do – Mary Davis had problems here before. And he said the president was not the head of Bord Tractala or the IDA – a cut at Sean Gallagher.

Sean Gallagher 5/10

He intervened to talk about his plan to save the State €10m by sending one election leaflet instead of seven. But it’s not going to happen. He said the only person who agreed was Dana. He then challenged the others to agree with him “on live TV” for real leadership. Mary Davis agreed and Gay Mitchell said he wanted none. But little impact apart from that.

David Norris 6/10

Painted himself as the victim at the start and pointed out that he had been the victim of negative campaigning. He was keen to interject, piping up with cries of ‘head hear’. Also highlighted his own comeback by saying anyone who had got on the ticket deserved to be there, trying to remind viewers of his struggle, which made him appealing to them.

Dana Rosemary Scallon 4/10

She made a good start by putting an end to the whingeing by Mary Davis, David Norris and Gay Mitchell. “While we are talking about negative campaigning, there are people living in negative equity,” she said. But she sounded shrill and unconvincing talking about EU treaties and the bank bailout and our corporation tax rate.

Gay Mitchell 5/10

Called Davis’s claims about negative polling “desperate allegations”. His inner street fighter showed itself at the off, but was far from presidential. His main line of attack on McGuinness was Sinn Fein’s claims that party TDs, MPs and MLAs take the average industrial wage. The rest of the money went into the party’s “propaganda”.

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