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Medb Ruane: Familiar tone of school reunion

FIVE men, five suits, four red ties and a blue one.

They came, they stood but who did they conquer?

Ireland's party political leaders waxed beautifully to Pat Kenny's studio audience in RTE's five-way debate, which staged the men from head to foot facing a human audience.

A thin grey line on the set behind them showed why the political handlers are careful about these debates. Like a line-up of suspects in 'CSI' or 'Law and Order', it marked the men in order of height.

Tallest were Gerry Adams and John Gormley, who bracketed the gang of five. Smallest were likely new Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore, who was positioned to Kenny's right.

With stark problems facing the State, such things shouldn't matter.

But Adams took full advantage from the start. Hugging Enda as though the FG leader was an unthreatening toy boy, Adams kept trying to stamp his authority on the rest, who kept resisting, to a man.

Enda lobbed a few rolling eye movements in Gerry's direction, but SF's Top Gun saw no further than the chance to finger-point at these lesser Irishmen, reserving most ire for Micheal Martin. Gormley, bookended against him, rocked gently on his feet.

Enda Kenny occupied centre stage with clear determination, keeping his eye on the audience and his voice measuredly calm. Gilmore allowed more passion than he showed on TV3, with a rogue fist emerging towards Martin and, especially, Adams. But nothing deterred the man from north of the Border..

Martin held his position, using some frowning and head nodding to explain the inexplicable dilemma of defending Fianna Fail policies in a new way.

The irony is that the men know each other so well for so long the tone was more school reunion, with Adams jockeying to be Head Boy.

Their words made some sense but the sight of those five men looking like they'd all been plucked from the same manly shelf painted a traditional picture of Irish politics, yet one where people got some chance to engage.

Irish Independent