Another Kildare North debate took place yesterday, this time on Shane Coleman’s Sunday Show in Newstalk, available here. Present were Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan, Labour’s Emmet Stagg, the Social Democrats’ Catherine Murphy, Fianna Fail’s James Lawless and Sinn Fein’s Reada Cronin.
First up was a lengthy discussion on the latest released poll figures. Durkan, asked first about his party’s apparently failing fortunes, was dismissive, going back constantly to the Fine Gael talking points of recovery, recovery, recovery and getting out the old “only poll that matters” chestnut. He was confident and assertive. Stagg, questioned next, sounded like he might have been ill, but his actual answer largely matched Durkan’s in terms of message, and he was careful to add a few sentences about his own chances, in which he sounds supremely confident. Hmm. Murphy was happy to talk about her party’s apparent “momentum” with the new polling, banking on a “thoughtful” electorate to give her new entity some extra sears. Cronin, when asked, went right on the attack against the government parties almost immediately, and then bristled when asked about campaign financing. She also seemed at pains to paint herself as a serious candidate, and not just an also-ran, probably in response to Stagg’s confidence. Lawless was dismissive of the polls also, and a touch arrogant as he talked about his expectation that voters “loaned” to Fine Gael in 2011 would come back to Fine Gael. He also ruled out a coalition deal with Fine Gael. Overall, the sitting TD’s had good responses here.
Next was a sort of general discussion on the candidates’ Dail record. Durkan went straight after Fianna Fail and its role in the last government really strongly. Lawless took the bait, and suddenly found himself briefly defending the budgets of Brian Lenihan, hardly good politics right now. Murphy attacked the regressive budgets of the last five years effectively. Stagg talked up Labour’s job creation record for a few moments. Cronin went straight for the attack on the government again, and was easily lured into an excruciating shouting match with Durkan and Stagg, that Lawless was drawn into, deflecting Fianna Fai’s responsibility for current financial weakness. Poor section of the debate, I suppose Murphy impressed me the most by just staying out of it.
In a bit of an aside, it was putt to Stagg that Labour was no longer the party of the working class. He denied this, and again maintained that his own support base in Kildare North, among various demographics, was quite strong.
We moved to a general discussion on USC and tax policies/records. Durkan strongly denied the claimed dangers of abolishing USC, and was allowed a bit too much time, waffling badly by the end. Murphy attacked the current promises of the government promises strongly, followed closely by Cronin, rapidly looking like she has no other plays to make. Durkan was allowed to respond, which he did with passion, but it quickly devolved into soundbytes on recovery, recovery, recovery.
We moved into a section full of random points. Cronin got very defensive when asked about her opinion on “Slab” Murphy, annoyed that she was even asked. Lawless, when finally brought back into a conversation he seemed uneager to join, attacked the governments record generally, but seemed flustered. Stagg responded by attacking Fianna Fail’s record, but had to make his speech while being interrupted by Cronin, pointing out the myriad of false promises Labour has previously made. People started shouting. Murphy was forced to defend her stance on the minimum wage, which led to Stagg attacking the Soc Dems. Weird section, hard to really name a “Most impressed by”.
Onto the Special Criminal Court. Murphy was questioned for her mixed stance on the court, but defended her voting record on the topic and current opinions strongly in my opinion, before things devolved back into a shouting match. Lawless fired back with a cogent defence of the SCC. Cronin, naturally, went straight back to attacking the government, this time on Garda morale, and was allowed to waffle on about her ancestry for some reason. Durkan was left with a few moments to attack Sinn Fein’s suggested witness protection plans for juries, which he did well. Murphy best in this section by a long margin.
Lastly, the candidates were offered the chance to put the case for voting for them to the electorate, especially if they had little chance of gaining power. Lawless advocated the benefits of strong opposition, a good point. Cronin just attacked the government again, and then had the gall to attack the media who she felt were treating Sinn Fein unfairly. Give me a break. Murphy was brief and just advocated support for her party’s vision. Durkan strongly defended the governments record, recovery, recovery, recovery. Stagg defended Labour in the same terms. And that was a wrap.
It was a mixed debate. It opened fine, with people getting plenty of time to talk and make their points. But the second Coleman told people they could interrupt others if they felt it was necessary, just looking for the clusterf**k, it started to fall to pieces. But better than the last debate anyway, and nice to actually here from the candidates. Anyway:
Durkan – I wouldn’t say he was strong on substance, but came across as strong speaker, confident and unwilling to take any criticism of the government lying down.
Stagg – Limited in most respects, maybe because he’s under the weather? Still, his own confidence in his chances was noteworthy.
Murphy – Strong in most respects, better than the last debate, was the best here. Defended her stances on things well and seemed much more assured.
Lawless – Very quiet, almost reluctant to get involved, and some very poor answers. Not seeing the big deal about him.
Cronin – Had precious little to say about her or her party’s policies, just attacked, attacked, attacked, whether it was the government or the media. A bit of a whinger, which isn’t appealing.
Doesn’t seem like there is long left to go.