Tuesday 23 July 2019

Presidential debate: How do the candidates think they fared?

Presidential candidates Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Seán Gallagher, President Michael D Higgins and Liadh Ní Riada appearing in tonight's debate on RTÉ's Prime Time. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Presidential candidates Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Seán Gallagher, President Michael D Higgins and Liadh Ní Riada appearing in tonight's debate on RTÉ's Prime Time. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Talk of travel, Travellers and taxes got the pulses raised during the Prime Time debate – but how did the candidates feel afterwards?

Independent.ie’s Kevin Doyle asked them as they left RTÉ around midnight:

PETER CASEY

The businessman said it was a “a bit long”, suggesting it could cut have been reduced to an hour. “It all happened so quickly.” Casey had no regrets about his performance, not just in the debate but over the past week. He said his comments about the ethnic status of Travellers was a “lightening rod for public debate”.

SEAN GALLAGHER

The 2011 runner-up was frustrated by the debate. He described President Michael D Higgins as a “wily old politician dodging questions”. He suggested that Mr Higgins attempts to not produce details of Áras spending means “there’s something hidden I the accounts”.  Asked about Mr Higgins decision not to take part in the Virgin Media debate tonight, Mr Gallagher said it was like “shadow boxing”.

GAVIN DUFFY

There wasn’t “any great movement or shift in that date” was the view of Gavin Duffy. He said it was “well moderated” by David McCullagh but argued there wasn’t “enough discussion around the issues”. Mr Duffy said “not enough happened to affect the leader in the polls”.

Michael D Higgins

The President told reporters it was a “fine, long debate”. “I hope those at home found their questions answered,” he said. Mr Higgins said there were issues on which he would have liked to spend more time – but he was “very happy” overall.

Joan Freeman

The senator was somewhat disappointed with her performance. Having decided not to get involved in much of the bickering, she felt she didn’t get across her ambitions for the presidency but “that was my own fault”. She also thought “it went on a bit long”. And reflecting on her approach for the final days of the campaign, she noted that some people have told her she’s “too nice, too ladylike in the debate”. She questioned what voters want if “too ladylike” is not a good thing.

Liadh Ní Riada

The Sinn Féin candidate did not return to her dressing room after the debate and therefore avoided reporters. During the debate she managed to fend off questions over her views on the HPV  vaccine but struggled badly when asked about previous claims that she only takes the average industrial wage. However, there was no opportunity to clarify her remarks because of her quick exit.

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