Finally. Pat Kenny gets some, in fact most, of the Limerick candidates in a room. O’Dea, Power, Noonan, O’Donnell, O’Sullivan, Leddin, Quinlivan and Prendiville. Kiely, Cahill and O’Donoghue are absent.
Some talk about how at least one of the sitting TDs isn’t going to be in the Dail again next term, played up horrifically by Kenny. The make the point straight away that Noonan and O’Dea are pretty much safe (hilariously telling O’Dea he “only has” around a quota’s worth of support, how terrible for him) while Power, O’Donnell and, apparently, even O’Sullivan might be in danger. Kenny has access to some kind of poll I don’t know about, indicating no Gilmore Gale for Limerick and little support for Sinn Fein. Kiely is ” a loose horse” they can’t quantify. The importance of the “left” transfers is discussed, but this pre-debate panel doesn;t really have any answers.
Finally on to the candidates!
Noonan has little regard for the polls and expresses regret that Limerick is losing a seat. He is a class act Noonan, complementing all of the constituency’s TDs. Noonan is splitting canvassing territory with O’Donnell, a smart move.
O’Dea disagrees with the assertion that there is only one FF seat in Limerick City this time out. He says the Fianna Fail “brand” isn’t what it was and is making no promises regards transfers.
Power is “convinced” FF has the votes to get two seats, they just have to work together. Hmm. Not sure that is going to happen.
O’Sullivan seems annoyed at the contention that there is no “Gale” in Limerick and says Labour can win two seats. She claims Labour will be winning most of O’Deas vote. She says “none of us are safe”.
O’Donnell is very calm about a potential loss, talks more about the territory divide between himself and Noonan. He plays up the jobs issue, and tries to exert an air of confidence. I think he only partially succeeds.
Quinlivan dismisses the poll. Hd thinks the fourth seat is “wide open” and believes O’Dea is vulnerable. He and O’Dea have “a history” which gets a chuckle from the audience. He claims canvassing is going far slower than in previous campaigns.
Leddin talks about how he has been canvassing since December. Copies O’Sullivan by devoting his time exclusively to jobs. He feels that there is an anti-Fianna Fail backlash in the city.
Prendiville claims that he can be a real alternative to the other parties. He says he doesn’t want his transfers going to one of the established parties. He doesn’t really deny that he doesn’t have a chance.
I’ll also bote that the possibility that two of those TDs might not be returned is not even contininced.
A short break and we’re back. Time to address some issues, but first, some opinions on the debate.
Noonan doesn’t regret that Kenny was absent last night and brings up the “suicide” incident as an offensive incident beyond reproach. He brings up the fact that Kenny will be taking part in a record number of debates and Vincent Browne isn’t a very nice person anyway.
O’Dea thinks the debate was good and was impressed. He says that if Kenny has an issue “so be it” though he was disappointed Kenny wasn’t there.
O’Sullivan didn’t see the debate (see below) and doesn’t buy Kenny’s excuses for his absence. She claims Kenny just didn’t want to go up against Gilmore and Martin.
Leddin also missed it, he was out canvassing. They realise its up online right?
Power says there was ” a lack of engagement” on the doors last night because of the debate and feels that Kenny should have showed up.
O’Donnell is dismissive of the whole thing, saying that Kenny’s “stand” should be respected.
Onto actual issues. On the new amount of money that Anglo-Irish requires:
Noonan thinks that the way the news was broken (from a bank official rather than a Minister) is somewhat suspicious. He says that the Euro “stress tests” won’t find anything.
O’Dea has nothing to add, agreeing totally with Noonan. Everyone is so nice today.
O’Sullivan decides to shot some discussion into the programme, calling Alan Dukes out on the risks he and AI are running with Irish jobs. We get a small bit of back and forth between O’Sullivan and Noonan on the topic of nationalization of the banks, something Noonan does not agree with. Pat Kenny also takes her to task about this, and O’Sullivan seems a little out of answers. Like, she said the soundbites and was confused when someone poked holes in them.
Leddin jumps in. More soundbites, more annoyance when Pat Kenny doesn’t play along. I’m beginning to see a pattern with the Labour candidates. They’ve come off pretty awful in this section, not knowing what they’re talking about, having to jump in to save the other from their own running mouths. Getting all kinds of “talking over each other” here. O’Sullivan continues to dig a hole for herself.
O’Dea jumps in and everyone shuts up. How about that. He takes Labour to account over their nationalisation idea and talks about the information they got around the time of the bank guarantee. He says they acted on “the best of advice”.
Quinlivan is asked for his opinion. He admits Sinn Fein would have done the same thing and criticises Labour for being cynical. Prendiville ignores the whole question and goes back to “Why are we paying for this, that and the other?” instead of telling us what his alternative was.
Another break, probably good to let everyone cool down a little. Time for some local issues. And, of course, that means the regeneration scheme. Pat Kenny decided to send someone out to Southhill, Moyross, Weston and St Mary’s Park to see what the story was. The usual report: Politics have failed those areas, good people’s lives being ruined, and I’ve heard this all before.
Not trying to be cold here, but this speil comes out all the time and nothing ever gets done about it. A personal opinion is that the regeneration scheme is a waste of money, badly managed and inevitably pointless, that is sucking money away from areas of Limerick where it could be better spent. And the person Pat Kenny has talking about it, isn’t helping her case with the outraged tone in her voice. She doesn’t live here and she’s not going to care tomorrow.
Eventually we get back to the candidates. O’Dea admits the problems have been there for decades and rejects the claim that the regen scheme has been indefinitely deferred. He talks about the non-housing parts of the scheme, the sports and education development. He says the money is there, committed and it will work. Usual line from him.
Noonan says there is only so much you can do with new houses. He says that the drug trade is the major problem of the area, the factor that affects everything else. He says that this problem will undermine any regeneration unless it is solved. He says that education, especially at a very young level, is critical and that intervention with “people” rather than “bricks and mortar” is needed.
O’Sullivan says people feel abandoned at night. She says houses have been knocked but not replaced. She seems to be repeating Noonan’s points.
The whole panal rejects Pat Kenny’s claim that they’re ignoring the area due to lack of votes. Fr Pat Hogan, a local activist, gets on the mike and starts complaining about the lack of response, saying that O’Dea has made promises that were never kept. It’s a good point, one that O’Dea doesn’t respond to.
Leddin says we need more amineties and the like in those areas, instead of just “social housing”. He starts going on and on about the opinion of former TD Dessie O’Malley for some reason. Not a great answer.
Quinlivan says that those areas have indeed been abandoned by those in power, with the Dail ignoring the need for more Garda. He says that he lacks the power to do anything about it in his current position. A bit of a cop-out.
O’Donnell says regeneration must involve multiple solutions to problems. Short and, well, pointless. It all gets away from the candidates here, as Pat Kenny chooses to focus on people from those areas instead. That’s not what I am listening for.
After a while, we finally get back to the candidates. Noonan insists that difficulties lie with private landlords rather than local authorities in regards to housing.
O’Dea insists that they do have contact with the people in those areas and goes back to his part in the creation of the regeneration scheme. It strikes me that people complain about Willie O’Dea doing nothing for those areas, forgetting that the regeneration scheme was his baby in cabinet.
Joe Leddin jumps back in uncalled for to complain about the system of moving people to new areas which causes “havoc”. Power says the only solution is through the regeneration scheme that his party started.
O’Donnell says changes have to be made in the law to tackle the criminal element in the regeneration areas. Prendiville finally gets back on the mike to say that the sitting TDs are out of touch with the situation on the ground on their high salaries. Thanks for you solutions Cian.
After another break, the question is put to Noonan about Ireland’s corperation tax and the chances that we could be forced to raise it. He says that the corperation tax issue is “mythologized” and misunderstood, since many French companies pay less than Irish ones.
Another break (?) and we’re back. A small business owner in the audience asks about the protection supposed to be afforded to sub-contractors working on government business
O’Dea says that legislation to the effect will be passed as soon as possible. O’Sullivan says that Labour have similar laws in the pipelines. Power says they are 100% behind the bill. Quinlivan says we need to address the awarding of contracts in that regard, where local people aren’t being employed properly. Prendiville says that the state is outsourcing responsibility and should employ people directly. Leddin says it is a scandal that these people aren’t being paid. Why are Labour just repeating what everyone else says?
O’Donnell says Limerick needs change, to funding and resources. Power says the future is bright for Limerick, as long as we commitment on funding. O’Sullivan wants more money to retrain unemployed Dell workers.
O’Dea says that the government will get that sorted before the election. What?
It all gets a little fast as time runs out and we end with a brief prediction from Kenny’s team: Noonan, O’Dea and O’Sullivan as certs, with O’Donnell the favourite to get the fourth.
Interesting debate, but too much time was wasted talking to people other than the candidates. I would have liked to have seen the panel direct questions at each other, rather than just sit and listen to the crowd. Oh well. Brief thoughts:
Noonan did great. Funny guy. Pat mistakenly says he was “a former Minister of Finance”. Noonan replies, “I was only a spokesman, but I did such a good job they thought I was the Minister”. He always gets the laughs and he’ll easily get a seat.
O’Dea struck to his lines and came through the debate without a stain.
O’Sullivan had little of real importance to say and was far too quiet for my liking.
Leddin was little better, and probably did the worst of the eight people there.
Quinlivan did well, but got precious little time to speak. Prendiville the same, but he policies got bad reactions, as I would expect in a town like Limerick. Put a 21 year old on a stage with these experience politicians, and it doesn;t take a genius to figure out whats going to happen.
Power and O’Donnell were subdued, caught in the shadow of their respective running mates.
This debate didn’t really affect my thinking on many of these candidates, but it is always good to get them in a room talking.
Just before I end, I’d like to mention that Jan O’Sullivan was also on Primetime last night, speaking on health issues. She seemed a little flustered at times, but she did fine overall. I’m not at all convinced about this free GP care idea, not sure how Labour could actually afford that, but I’d certainly love it.