Going To The Candidates’ Debate




From top: Leaders; debate, University of Limerick; Stephen Donnelly; Anne Marie Mcnally

Laugh about it, shout about it when you’ve got to choose

But not every way you look at this you lose.

Anne-Marie McNally writes:

‘Tis the season. Though in this season the only ones who are jolly are the political nerds who enjoy watching our political leaders go toe to toe in what passes for debate on our national airwaves.

They’re ubiquitous; you can’t swing a canvass leaflet without hitting an angry leader shouting at another angry leader. These ‘debates’ will help you make up your mind you see.

Apparently traditional political party strategists think that the best way to showcase what their respective leaders have to offer the country is to pitch them in a shouting match against each other while they loudly decry the failings of each other.

Nobody questioned that strategy, it seems nobody said, hang-on, wouldn’t I be better laying out a vision rather than an indictment of others failings? What about those in glass houses etc? But no, each puppet leader went out and done as advised…”attack them on this, attack the others on that then attack him on the other..” and so it went.

Last Thursday evening’s TV3 debate was a row. There’s no other way to describe it. A noisy off-putting row. I canvassed a mature estate the next day. Almost every house said something along the lines of ‘Did you watch that farce last night?’

Not one person told me they felt informed by it or in any way had their vote been swayed or their position solidified. If anything it had served to reinforce the far too commonly held complaint that politics is ‘a load of guff’.

Roll forward to Monday night in the University of Limerick and the RTÉ Leaders’ Debate where the floor was opened up to 7 party leaders to include the traditional four as well as Renua, PBPAAA and my own party the Social Democrats.

We were clear in our focus. Irish people do not need to hear 7 people in a ‘he said, she said’ Punch and Judy show. Stephen Donnelly was the nominated leader for the night and his brief was to do what we have set out to do since we launched; lay out an alternative vision based on hope and ambition and impress upon people who have become so disillusioned with politics that another way is possible. We can do things differently. He did that and then some.

Dublin Central Soc Dem candidate Gary Gannon, (he of that tracking shot) and myself had driven to Limerick for various media events surrounding the main event and we sat in the press room watching the debate alongside the country’s most prominent political journalists (It would have been an awfully embarrassing position to be in had Stephen crashed and burned!).

We sat there with pride. Stephen nailed it, in a debate which once again descended into a cacophony of pointed fingers (quite literally in Joan Burton’s case). Stephen stood tall and offered our vision.

The online reaction shows just how badly Irish people needed relief from the shouting. Stephen Donnelly was the most googled Leader during the debate. He was also the most mentioned leader on twitter during the debate. the ADAPT data also shows that Stephen generated the strongest positive reaction on twitter during the debate.

The Social Democrats website crashed briefly twice during the debate due to the traffic it generated. In particular when Stephen closed with a rallying statement to Vote Social Democrats, the Candidate information page on the website came under siege as people tried to find who they could vote for in their area.

Stephen himself gained over 1500 twitter followers in the time period from 9:30 to 11:30pm. Each of the candidates, myself included, had people message us looking to get involved or to donate. In other words people got excited.

My point here is to outline what should have been a very simple message for other parties. People want honesty. They want someone to speak to THEM, not shout at each other and try and score points.

Let’s be honest, unless you’re a nerd like me, politics can be boring but in the first instance that somebody stood up and offered them a credible and hopeful vision they paid attention and they reacted. That fills me with hope.

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and is a General Election candidate for the Social Democrats in the Dublin West constituency. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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58 thoughts on “Going To The Candidates’ Debate

      1. Mayor Quimby

        the overuse of the passive voice; the looking into my own heart stick is Una’s stock in trade.

        This line for example

        >They’re ubiquitous; you can’t swing a canvass leaflet without hitting an angry leader shouting at another angry leader.

        Does this person have a degree or even a Masters in Communication also?

    1. The Real Jane

      Yeah, that’s what women do when you let them out in public with an opinion. Shriek.

      Whither the silent women of bygone eras, where they confined their voices to the home and thoughts to the welfare of children? They were the boys, boys.

    2. Baz

      that writing is paid for by the taxpayer

      instead of doing her Job , Ms McNally has spent the last few months writing drivel and posting to Broadsheet, we have been bored many times, by her own account in the above article she is out on the campaign trail, Is the taxpayer still paying her wages?

  1. Grainne

    Seriously considered Social Democrats until I read that Stephen Donnelly was absent for 75% of votes in the Dáil in 2015. That is unacceptable and reflects badly on both him and the party.

    1. Clampers Outside!

      I looked into that too…. here’s a thing, in 2015 he spent his time getting the SocDems organised and ready for an election. As a joint leader of a party, should he not have the same privilege of other leaders who do not have the ‘roll call’ of the DáIl ?

      Considering what he was doing for the year, I think it fair to let that pass. But that’s just me.

      1. Grainne

        He is ‘joint’ leader not the leader as far as I know. There are three of them. Roisín Shortall missed 53.3% of votes, while Catherine Murphy missed 36.2%. So between them rather a lot. Getting a new party organised should not interfere with representing your electorate to that extent.
        Anne Marie states ‘They want someone to speak to THEM’ but what use is that if he doesn’t turn up to vote and represent ‘THEM’?
        As I said disappointed that the party that promises to change everything is at least in this aspect is the same as everyone else.

        1. Caroline

          Wait, are you saying everyone else is the same?

          Who should we vote for on the basis of their Dail voting record?

          Or at least, what’s the minimum cut-off percentage for people we should not NOT vote for?

          I don’t think the issue is irrelevant, far from it, I just think the laser focus on it is a bit strange.

          1. nellyb

            Not strange. It’s a standard manipulation tactic, and not always intentional. We all guilty of that since we were children. Pick an issue / success and make it a defining point, where it is not. It’s a bet on lack of reasoning or attention.
            Yes, Murphy was absent on 50% votes. But what did she do at the time?
            She took on the wealthiest man in Malta, she took on calcified disdain for any standards by the gov, she took on privatization-friendly IW quango. Quango that bleeds public money and offers little in return. Her and colleagues drafted and presented an anti-corruption legislation. She was also busy organizing a party with the colleagues. Etc. All in public domain to read or ignore. Grainne chose latter.

            I don’t like absentees myself, but I’d cut SD a slack for 2015.

          2. Caroline

            I guess it’s just strange for me because I’m such an intuitively complex thinker. You humans amuse me at times. I will include your observations in my latest report.

        2. Clampers Outside!

          Fine Gráinne…. is what you are expecting to happen… like change in a vacuum, or something? Usually when someone is trying to change something they are given some leeway from the norm. But that’s just me… are you in a union or something?

        1. ahjayzis

          There is very little point, owing to the complete neutering of the concept of a parliament in Ireland. it is literally and completely a rubber stamp, especially with the coalitions majority.

          They don’t accept amendments from the opposition – full stop, there is literally no input from the opposition on any legislation in the chamber.

          Empowering parliament is a SocDem campaign issue, Donnelly’s talked about how completely useless it is at length – maybe read up on it.

      1. Grainne

        Sure what is the point in any opposition TD turning up. Just let the Government parties do what they like. Think democracy deserves more respect.

        1. ahjayzis

          You’re blaming the opposition for the complete dominion of the executive in parliament?

          You’re pointing your anger the wrong way, it was the government that ran on rebalancing power and accountability and empowering parliament, it was they who reneged on those promises and worsened the situation.

          Newsflash: the government parties do what they like anyway – through guillotine and the use of a three-line whip on every. single. vote.

    2. TK

      I’m 100% with you. Was going to give him my number 1. The people of Wicklow voted for him to represent them not make a new party on their time.

      1. Cup of tea anyone?

        Well then the people of Wicklow are very short sighted. He used his time to create a new party that would embrace his core values. surely a group working to do whats best for the whole country is better then one man doing his best for a single county.
        That is what has been wrong with this country for so long. Voting for the guy down the road because he will promise to fix a few potholes even though his party is corrupt and actually ruining the country, instead of the guy who’s party will focus on fixing something larger like the health system or schools etc.

    3. JC

      Ah Grainne, It would appear you heard that on Facebook. It is the usual haunt for ‘facts and figures’ to be used and abused to suit whatever agenda one can prsescribe.

      Lets deal in facts then Shall we Grainne,

      Stephen Donnelly was absent for 45% of votes during 2011 -2016
      The champion of social justice Ruth Coppinger was absent for 40% a mere 5 % in the difference

      Catherine Murphy And Roisin Shorthall absent for 18.7 % and 33.4% respectively.

      Now lets move up the chain to Enda Absent for 79.9% of votes
      Noonan 64.7%
      Coveney 59.9%
      Vradkar 58.2%
      Michael Martin 49%
      Joe Higgins 47.8 %

      I mean Grainne if you want to deal in facts and figures then please do, But dont be disingenuous in saying such misdirection in facts made you change your vote. Are you here to spread the lies or to listen to reason

      Facts can be reviewed here, make your own minds up


  2. Smith

    Broadsheet, proudly sponsored by the Social Democrats.


    The Social Democrats, proudly sponsored by Broadsheet.

      1. Clampers Outside!

        And the slogans…

        Environment and climate change….
        ‘Ireland, sure where else would ya get it?’

        ‘Ireland, are ya havin’ that?’

        Space exploration….
        ‘Ireland 2016, A Fiscal Space Oddity’

  3. DubLoony

    Everyone played to their own audience at the debate. No one was reaching out to undecideds or soft supporters of the other side.

      1. Caroline

        Ah now. I googled him and that’s probably the least flattering photo of him.

        In other news, if you do google him you’ll be rewarded with a photo of him in his lycra cycling gear. Not as rewarded as you might hope, but still.

        1. Caroline

          You’re jealous?

          You could slide a silk hanky down his shins. Most days you’d be lucky to roll a tea towel down mine.

    1. ahjayzis

      Gorgeous Gary needs a roadtrip buddy who appreciates his singing, giz a bell next trip and I’ll buy you a bus ticket and keep him company ;o)

  4. some old queen

    The whole shouting and finger pointing is theatrics and a charade. It is a smoke screen where the players prop each other up by saying nothing…. loudly. It is no coincidence that the biggest culprits are also those representing the biggest parties.

  5. J

    I agree. I thought Donnelly was vocal and verbose , but lacking when it came to the intricacies of SD policy. A bit too safe with a strong whiff of the management consultant about him. Verdict: A ginger Cameron .

        1. ahjayzis

          We as in people who raise an eyebrow when the leader of a self-styled social democratic party exhorts her voters to give their number 2 vote to the most right-wing Christian democratic party in the country, pet ;o)

  6. J

    “We sat there with pride. Stephen nailed it, in a debate which once again descended into a cacophony of pointed fingers (quite literally in Joan Burton’s case). ” *Edit

    * Adams outperformed Joan in the symphony of pointed fingers.
    * Safer though to point Labour vote chasing finger at Joan .

  7. 15 cents

    cant believe no ones brought up what Kenny said in the first ‘debate’ .. when asked about crime in rural areas and its huge increase in incidents, he opened up his answer by saying it’s easier for them to get there because of all the great new roads. he even did it with a little smirk.

  8. Brendan O'

    He was the most googled because people know the big party leaders. RTE: Donnelly accounted for 21% of the total searches for the seven leaders, with Boyd-Barrett on 20% and Creighton on 17%. And Irish Twitter is full of middle class lefty whitest Irish types who like people like Stephen.

  9. Kieran NYC

    The Dáil only sits three days a week with lots of long breaks throughout the year.

    Could he not set up the party on the other four days a week?

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