Kildare North: A (Bad) Debate (14 Days To Election)

RTE’S Drivetime got five of the Kildare North TD’s in front of a microphone for an all too quick debate on Thursday, that lasted around 15 minutes. Represented were Reada Cronin (Sinn Fein), James Lawless (Fianna Fail), Anthony Lawlor (Fine Gael), Emmet Stagg (Labour) and Catherine Murphy (Social Democrats). Only time for around six topics to be addressed, and not everyone was asked every question. My impressions:

How many people are unemployed in Kildare?

This was a weird first question, especially since RTE’s Brian Lenihan made sure the candidates realised he was talking about the County, and not their actual constituency, presenting this piece of pointless whatabouterry as some kind of “Gotcha” question. Catherine Murphy was caught out, and couldn’t give an answer. Stagg severely underestimated, going only by Kildare North numbers. Cronin severely overestimated. Anthony Lawlor was there or there abouts. And James Lawless waffled for a few seconds without giving an answer. I suppose Lawlor was the best? Dumb opening.

Aren’t things improving?

Bit of a leading question to throw at Cronin first, who was reluctant to acknowledge falling unemployment numbers. Murphy was happy to talk about good developments in the constituency, and Stagg went right to the unemployment numbers again. Nothing question, suppose Murphy gets my nod?

How many people are on the housing list?

Lawlor just started reeling off numbers so fast it was hard to grasp what he was saying exactly. Cronin went from local housing to aiming a direct attack on the government on a national level. Stagg lamely deflected the question. Cronin was the best, just about.

Justify your Dail participation record

Lawlor’s isn’t great, but he calmly replied that he was proud of his efforts to reach constituents, then confidently dealt with an annoying topic change when Lenihan suddenly brought up his 8th Amendment views (he favours abolition). Stagg just went on for a bit about his role as the Labour Party Whip. Murphy defended her record well. Lawlor best by a fair distance.

Abolishing water charges

Lawless, weirdly ignored for most of the debate, clumsily dodged a rather harsh attack on Fianna Fail’s stance from Lenihan. Cronin responded by launching a clumsily worded attack on Fianna Fail. No winners here.

Fiscal space

Cronin started talking about the Fiscal Compact referendum for some reason. Lawlor gave a vague reply, then got loud and no less vague. Murphy gave an impassioned attack on diminishing quality of services. Stagg went for a strange attack on economists’ faulty predictions. Lawless opened with an awful “look to the past to predict the future” answer, which Lenihan gleefully used to attack his party’s recent history. Murphy was better here.

And that was it. Murphy and Lawlor were the best of the five, closely followed by Cronin, then Stagg, and then last Lawless. Murphy came across mostly well, and her final answer was the best of the debate. Lawlor was surprisingly confident in most answers and I was impressed by his level-headed reaction to the sudden 8th Amendment swerve. Cronin was a bit shaky, some anger thrown at Stagg that didn’t make her sound good. Stagg seemed happy not to be asked too many questions. Lawless was surprisingly poor, his answer to the last question quite bad.

It was a bad debate, thanks to a moderator interested more in catching people out on stupid questions than actual discussion. I wouldn’t say it has altered my views much.

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