Thursday, May 17, 2007


Party leaders lock horns

It had been my intention to profile each one of the parties taking part in the upcoming election as I did last week with Fianna Fáil. Unfortunately, I've been very busy of late and therefore I doubt I'll have the time to do this. With that being the case, I was pleased to discover that RTE will be using this week to allow the leaders of the main parties an opportunity to put their views to the electorate through televised debates.

I'll thus give my thoughts on how the parties will do whilst I comment on the leader's performances one by one.

On Wednesday we had the four smaller parties represented. Labour's Pat Rabbitte, the PDs' Michael McDowell, Trevor Sargent of the Greens and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams were involved. Thursday is being billed as the big head-to-head as it will pit Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of Fianna Fáil against Fine Gael hopeful Enda Kenny. These Irish head-to-heads usually lack the big drama of, say, the American efforts but this one should be interesting to see whether Mr Kenny twists the knife over Ahern's recent financial difficulties.

As for Wednesday's programme, I felt it was pretty interesting and it made for good TV as they all laid into one another. Here are my thoughts on how the leaders did along with how I reckon their parties will do in the May 24th election...

Trevor Sargent - Greens

I felt Sargent had McDowell rattled more than any of the other panellists. Seeing as that was exactly what I was looking for going into this show, I was left impressed. He did well I felt in hammering home this government's failure to provide an equal society for Irish people. Going into this show I was apathetic towards Mr Sargent's party. Now I regard them as a good option. I think that stands as a good display on his part.

My rating

Four out of five. Good work.

Election performance

Based on my own calculations from last week I had the Greens winning 9 seats from this election which would be an increase of 3. In most people's view that would be around the best the party can hope for. I'll stick to my guns on that one and say they'll take 9 seats.

Michael McDowell - PDs

Ah poor Mickey McD. He's not had a great time of late. Current polls make for grim reading for his party. One minute he's raising questions about the Taoiseach's finances, the next minute he's laughing and joking with him. The people are a bit baffled. You would have thought then that on Wednesday evening McDowell would have presented a cool demeanour and tried to reassure those who were losing faith in his party. Instead, McDowell decided to snarl and snap at everybody around him. To my mind he spent more time bashing others than promoting his party's policies. He sounded like a desperate man. With that being said it wasn't a disastrous performance on McDowell's part but I doubt he's won anyone over with his backs-against-the-wall display.

My rating

Two out of five. He was flustered and it showed.

Election performance

The PDs have 8 seats at present. Most people are predicting losses for them. The question is, how many? My calculations have them picking up just 3 seats which is a loss of 5. That would be a very bad day for McDowell's party indeed. Fingers crossed!

Pat Rabbitte - Labour

I've stated already that I'll be backing Labour and Fine Gael so tonight I was looking for Rabbitte to justify my faith in his party. I thought he did very well. Unlike McDowell he DID keep his cool and he uttered the line of the night referring to McDowell as a "menopausal Paris Hilton". I loved McDowell's reaction to that line. Of course, as much as I like seeing McDowell under pressure, I primarily want to know if Labour will deliver for the public. I felt Rabbitte did a good job emphasising his party's policies and I believe Labour will do well handling the economy despite McDowell's scaremongering.

My rating

Three out of five. Good, solid performance but I would have liked him to be a bit more forceful as Sargent was.

Election performance

Labour are on 21 seats at present. My calculations have them ending up with 20 seats when it's all over. That will be a disappointment to many but who knows, it might see them in government.

Gerry Adams - Sinn Féin

Adams was at times a bit like the boy left out as the debate continued. It seems to me that he has no idea whatsoever when it comes to economic policies and he frequently brought up the peace process and tried to move the debate over to that topic. He did however impress me with his talk of making Ireland a more equal society and that more importance should be placed on tackling drugs. It was this point that led McDowell to sensationally claim that Adams, "sold provo know-how to the FARC guerrillas in Colombia in exchange for 25 million US dollars". To me though this just made McDowell look desperate (I mean why bring this up now?) and I thought Adams was right to regard it as pathetic on the PD leader's part. So overall I'd say Adams was so-so.

My rating

Three out of five. Fought his corner well but he is very poor on the economic nitty-gritty stuff.

Election performance

Currently the Shinners have 5 seats. The way I have it worked out they'll take 8 seats this time around. That will be a good improvement for them but, in my view, not good enough to get them into government.

If anyone wants to check out the debate, or commentary on the debate, you can do so on RTE here.

As I touched on above, Thursday should be fascinating as Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny clash. I'll look to post my thoughts on that debate when it's over.

Let the gloves come off!


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