Tag Archives: Leaders Debate

From left: Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald during the final TV leaders’ debate at the RTÉ studios in Donnybrook, Dublin on Tuesday night

This evening.

Via An Phoblacht:

RTÉ provided Fianna Fáil with advance notice of the topics for the RTÉ Leaders’ Debate on Tuesday, An Phoblacht can reveal.

Correspondence seen by An Phoblacht shows that an e-mail outlining the main questions and topics was provided to Fianna Fáil at 1.24am on Tuesday morning.

However Sinn Féin, who only received an invite to the debate on Monday after widespread public outrage over their exclusion, did not receive similar information until 13 hours later, despite repeated requests


Exclusive: RTÉ provided Fianna Fáil advance notice of Leaders’ Debate questions (An Phoblacht)


Thanks Vanessa

Clockwise from top left: Alison OConnor, Fionnan Sheahan, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and RTÉ’s Seán O’Rourke;

This morning.

On RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.

Ireland editor of the Irish Independent Fionnan Sheahan, Irish Examiner columnist Alison O’Connor and RTÉ’s Niamh Lyons joined Mr O’Rourke to discuss last night’s leaders’ debate on RTÉ’s Prime Time.

The panel discussion followed Mr O’Rourke interviewing Breege Quinn about the murder of her 21-year-old son Paul Quinn in Monaghan in 2007, following comments made by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald during last night’s debate.

During the interview with Ms Quinn, she said Sinn Féin’s Minister for Finance in the North Conor Murphy should resign or be stood down as minister.

Following this, Mr O’Rourke asked the panelists how the matter might effect the election “in the last three crucial days”.

Alison O’Connor: “Well I suppose, Seán. First of all, I mean, that Breege Quinn, I mean, what, I found myself really moved by her interview and almost close to tears at times. What she’s been through, her immense dignity and even where she said, at the end, two wrongs not making a right.

There are a lot of people as we know who want to vote Sinn Féin in this election. People who would not have considered it before and it’s for understandable reasons because they say want change and they’re not expecting to get that change from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

But I think that, in a funny sort of a way, it’s this blowing up at this time is not a bad thing. Because this is part and parcel of Sinn Féin’s history and their past and that we see this playing out. People will be able to make, I believe, a fully informed choice.

“And in a way, it gets to the heart, I mean this is something that happened 13 years ago. And Mary Lou McDonald is implying, saying, whatever, that in that space of time and even in more recent times, I mean, it has come up, Mrs Quinn was on [RTÉ’s] Drivetime the other day as well, that she didn’t have either then, now or in the last couple of years a full conversation with Conor Murphy, a very senior member of her party, to see where exactly things stand.

Either a) that just doesn’t have credibility or b) shockingly, it’s very far down the list of the party’s priorities. And I would also say, as someone who observes, has been observing politics for a long time, this is the bit that fascinates me. If Sinn Féin are in Government, in a coalition arrangement, and we’ll say that was actually an interview on Prime Time last night, and Mary Lou McDonald was a minister and she was asked that question by Miriam O’Callaghan and gave that unsatisfactory an answer, how that plays, how we’ll say the Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael side of the house would cope would that. And the fall-out from that sort of thing.

“And my final point as well then is, just watching it as a viewer last night, I thought Miriam O’Callaghan did magnificently with the questioning. Why didn’t Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, I thought, in terms of, just purely point scoring which it seems wrong to bring that level of it to this conversation, did not pile in, did not ask any questions?”

O’Rourke: “Well, perhaps because they felt dignity required and also the political reality, nothing needed to be said. Fionnan Sheahan, I suppose when it came to other aspects of law and order and the ugly side of our relatively recent history, the question of the Special Criminal Court was one that Mary Lou McDonald struggled on as well?

Fionnan Sheahan: “Yeah you’re colleague Bryan Dobson has a three-question rule. He says on TV, when you ask somebody a question three times and they haven’t answered it, the viewer at home can quite clearly see ‘well, they’re not answering the question’. Miriam O’Callaghan went further, she asked the question four times and Mary Lou McDonald failed to answer that question about the Special Criminal Court.

“Sinn Féin’s position now is that they say they want to review the Special Criminal Court. They have opposed the Offences Against The State Act every time it has come up in the Dáil over the past generation which implies that they are opposed to the Special Criminal Court. So Mary Lou McDonald could not come out with a straight-forward [inaudible] last night, saying ‘I’m in favour of the Special Criminal Court’ which not only affects prosecutions of alleged members of a terrorist organisation but also is a key element of combatting gangland crime.

“So I mean, in effect, you are seeing in a situation like the murder of Paul Quinn, north of the border. However there are situations where is nigh impossible to get witnesses into the witness box and that’s why we…”

O’Rourke: “I suppose looking at this, Niamh Lyons, like all political change, sorry, like a lot of political change, it has to be done crab-like. That’s how they got to the ceasefire over a quarter of a century ago and it was interesting looking at Eoin Ó Broin on the Virgin Media analysis, the post-match analysis, he was saying, just by way of clarification on that, Sinn Féin, yes they want a review of the courts and they want it done by a senior judicial figure and they will accept the outcome. So if that recommendation is the Special Criminal Court stays, they’re happy for it to say.”

Niamh Lyons: “Yeah and there has been criticism of the Special Criminal Court by the likes of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties,  Amnesty International. I think the issue here, for Mary Lou McDonald, is that she wanted to be front and centre in that debate last night. She put herself up there, playing the senior hurling but she wasn’t at the match at all.

“And this is where I suppose the rubber hits the road for her candidacy. You know, when you hear her, that accusation that, you know, who runs Sinn Féin? On that issue and the Special Criminal Court and on the issue of Paul Quinn, she’s unable to pivot in her own position and if you go on the Sinn Féin website, you’ll see a picture of Mary Lou, you’ll see Pearse Doherty, Michelle O’Neill and Conor Murphy.

“He’s one of the top four people in the party. He’s their lead negotiator. So why is she not allowed pivot away from something that he has previously said. You know, why is she so on the backfoot on this issue. Why does she sit down in front of Bryan Dobson, not knowing that not only had Conor Murphy made those claims but Gerry Adams in the past has made those claims. Why did she not check it out? Is she following a particular line?

O’Connor: “I mean that’s the heart of it. This is a woman at the peak of her…this is a woman at the peak of her political powers right…”

Talk over each other

O’Rourke: ‘But is there a light-touch relationship with the truth? You know, I mean she, in this studio, sitting where Fionnan is sitting, she said she believed Gerry Adams when he said he wasn’t a member of the IRA.”

O’Connor: “Actually Seán, I’m trying to…she didn’t quite say that. She said something like ‘you accept’…because I remember hearing that interview, I’m trying to remember her wording now, it was a very particular wording and…of course the criminal court was going to come up. I’ve heard her address it previously in the campaign. Of course the Quinn story was going to come up. So I find it very interesting, I didn’t see Eoin Ó Broin last night.

“So Eoin Ó Broin, who’s of lesser standing, if you like, than the leader is able to say that Sinn Féin would accept the outcome of a review into the Special Criminal Court. So it gets back to the heart of that issue, where we wonder, who pulls the strings on these sorts of issues, the whole, as Micheál Martin calls it, the old provos issue and why Mary Lou McDonald doesn’t appear to have the absolute autonomy as party leader on these issues.”

O’Rourke: “Let’s move to another…”

Sheahan: “The issue I suppose is that: do people care?

O’Rourke: “Well…”

Talk over each other

O’Connor: “Yeah, that’s an interesting…”

Sheahan: “The calculation Sinn Féin will make now is ‘well, you know, how many people are going to know who Paul Quinn was and how it was that he died and how many people, the man on the street, is going to know who Conor Murphy is? And that’s all stuff north of the border’…”

O’Rourke: “Yes, and there are atrocities on all sides…”

Sheahan: “Yeah.”

O’Rourke: “And if you go back long enough into the history of all the parties, very bad things happened. Now let’s move to another aspect of this debate…”

Listen back in full here

Earlier: How Was It For You?

This evening.

“RTÉ is very mindful it has a duty to the public to reflect events as they unfold.

During the course of the campaign and over recent days RTÉ has taken into consideration the notable change in the dynamic of the campaign on the ground, and representation and statements by political parties.

The dynamic has also been consistently reflected in all opinion polls since the campaign commenced.

We now consider it necessary to amend our original approach, respond to the changes in the campaign, and continue to put the audience first in the making of Tuesday night’s programme.”

RTÉ statement this evening.

Mary Lou McDonald to take part in leaders’ debate (RTÉ)


David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan of RTÉ’s Prime Time; Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald, during the seven way RTE leaders debate

On January 14 last, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that the election would take place on Saturday, February 8, 2020.

The following day, January 15, RTÉ released a press statement announcing details of its TV election debates. It noted:

In the final days of the campaign The Prime Time Leaders Debate will see the party leaders from the two largest political parties invited to take part in a live head-to-head studio debate.”

“In approaching election coverage the RTÉ Election Steering Group has regard to objective and impartial criteria, such as the results of the last comparable election (in this instance, the General Election 2016) and the results of intervening elections, such as the 2019 Local and European elections. Other factors are also considered in RTÉ coverage of the campaign.”

This morning.

RTÉ’s Political Correspondent Paul Cunningham reports:

“RTÉ’s General Election steering committee will meet at 11am to consider representations from Sinn Féin for Mary Lou McDonald to participate in the Prime Time leaders’ debate tomorrow night.

“Under the existing plan, the debate will be between the Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar and the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

“Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, who made the request to RTÉ in person yesterday, has argued that recent opinion polls prove that the criteria used to exclude Ms McDonald are redundant.”

More as we get it.


Prime Time presenter Miriam O Callaghan with, from left: Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil, Enda Kenny of Fine Gael and Eamon Gilmore of The Labour Party before a three-way leaders’ debate during the 2011 General Election

From the book Electoral Management: Institutions and Practices in an Established Democracy: The Case of Ireland by Fiona Buckley and Theresa Reidy…

In a chapter by Kevin Rafter:

Televised leaders’ debates have been a feature of Dáil elections since February 1982 with the sole exception of the 1989 election when agreement was not reached to organise a debate.

The seven debates between February 1982 and May 2007 shared several common features. In the first instance, participation was confined to the leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the two largest parties, which in effect turned the encounters into ‘Prime Ministerial debates’ as holder of the office of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) have been drawn from these two parties.

In addition, there was always only one televised debate per campaign, and all these debates were hosted by RTÉ.

The nature of the leaders’s debate changed in the 2011 general election. The number of debates increased to four while the number of host broadcasters increased to three with the involvement of TV3 and the publicly owned Irish language service, TG4.

The debate on TG4 took place in the Irish language (all earlier debates were in the English language).

Finally, and undoubtedly the most important change in 2011 was an increase in the number of participating party leaders.

The leader of the Labour Party, traditionally the third largest party participated in all four debates while one of the debates was a five-way encounter involving all parties with a minimum representation in the outgoing Dáil.

Since 1988, the organisation of presidential debates in the USA has been overseen by an independent commission although they are still defined by ‘behind-the-scenes arguments about everything from the format of the questioners to the length of the response time, the placement of cameras, the height of podiums, and the location of water glasses’.

In an Irish context, these ‘debates about the debates’ involves private interaction between the main political parties and broadcasters. At the 2011 general election, each of the three broadcasters ultimately involved in broadcasting debates (RTÉ, TV3 and TG4) negotiated separately with the five main political parties. This was a different approach to the UK experience where the broadcasters ‘communicated and agree a concerted approach’.

RTÉ’s hosting of two leader debates in 2011 was preceded by eight months of informal conversations, email communication and formal face-to-face meetings.

In a post-election review, one RTÉ executive offered advice for colleagues involved in future debate negotiations:

“…avoid getting drawn into lengthy discussions on formats or rules and regulations – we make the TV, they provide the candidates – and at no stage did we get drawn into the sorts of intricate rules which were a feature of the UK debates.”

...The importance of being impartial and fair, and being seen to be so, was a central feature of RTÉ’s approach to election coverage in 2011.

Indeed, at the final internal SC [steering committee] meeting before polling day it was noted ‘with satisfaction that RTÉ’s coverage hadn’t featured as an election story and this was very welcome as an indication that we were providing extensive, accurate and fair coverage’.

There you go now.

RTÉ committee to meet over Sinn Féin participation in election debate (RTÉ)

From top: Panel on Virgin Media One’s post-debate show, Political Correspondent Gavan Reilly, debate moderators Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper

Last night.

Virgin Media One hosted a seven-way leaders’ debate which was moderated  by Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper.

Mr Yates opened the debate with the following line:

I’m wondering has there ever been such a collection of chancers and charlatans put before the Irish public. Because I put it to you, starting with the Taoiseach, that is a fundamentally dishonest election because the presumption is there’s €11billion to have a giveaway on tax cuts and spending when, in actual fact, the Department of Finance have not assured us that money will be available.”

Following the debate, Virgin Media One’s Political Correspondent Gavan Reilly hosted a post-debate show with a panel including journalist and commentator Alison O’Connor, Associate Professor of Politics at DCU Gary Murphy, Irish Independent‘s Fionnan Sheahan and businesswoman Norah Casey.

The manner in which the debate was moderated came in for a lot of criticism on social media and from the panel.

Ms O’Connor said she’d like to have one of the moderators “drug tested” to see how much “Red Bull” they had drank before adding that she felt there was too much testosterone in the room.

Mr Sheahan reluctantly admitted he’d like to see Vincent Browne back, in a nod to the former host of The Tonight Show on then TV3.

During the debate, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told Mr Yates to “calm it” at one point [see above].

Eventually, Mr Yates and Mr Cooper joined the post-debate panel.

Then Mr Reilly put the criticism up to them and they had this exchange…

Gavan Reilly: “Welcome back. Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates have joined us straight from this evening’s debate which, technically speaking they moderated but gents I have to put it to you, Ivan, you specifically, the way you set the tone in the first 15 seconds. It hardly really set the pace for what should have been a very mature exchange of views about the future of the country and how Ireland ought to be run…”

Ivan Yates: “Well, part of what I do, both on this show and on radio, is not to do the ‘journalistic-ask-the-questions’. I’m not a journalist at all. I have an opinion and I’ve a very strong opinion on this election that the Department of Finance is muzzled for saying what they really think.

“And I think they are having a conniption about the promises that all parties are making. They actually don’t believe there’ll be 2.5% growth each year for the next five years, that we’ll be record breakers.

“And all those things.

“And I’ve seen the correspondence that they’ve sent the parties and they’ve totally, dishonestly misrepresented what the costings are. Because, like, if you say ‘what’s the reduction of pupil-to-teacher ratio? it’ll cost €50million’. They’ll give you a figure but they have an opinion of the knock-on effects of tax change…”

Reilly: “No sure, and all of that is fine…”

Yates: “The public have never got that…”

Reilly: “But that’s fine, but that’s your opinion, and you’re not running…”

Yates: “That’s right.”

Reilly: “…in the election…”

Yates: “Absolutely.”

Reilly: “So why then did you take up so much time from the seven people who do have aspirations to lead different cohorts of the Government and take up so much time, not only setting the tone but not letting them finish when they tried to reply?

Yates: “Well, a lot of that was to do with crowd control. There was nine people in the room and there was only so many minutes. But the whole entire first section was taken up with the economy and their promises. And I think that has to be put squarely to the voters, to say ‘are they really trying to buy my vote here?’.”

Alison O’Connor: “Yeah, but I think the viewer, I think that the problem was, appreciating what you’re saying, the problem was that in that section the viewer wasn’t served. Because it was like ‘reach for the Solpadeine’. That was the problem. It was very shouty and camáile and it was difficult, appreciating that there were nine people. So it was very, it was very difficult to…”

Talk over each other

Yates: “…the seven leaders because they were very anxious…”

Reilly:Matt, having just come back from the studio what do you think the other seven leaders made of the tone of the conduct of tonight’s debate?

Matt Cooper: “That’s not something we discussed with them afterwards. You do your handshakes, you let them go off and do what they’re going to do…”

Reilly: “No, and I appreciate you have to come down here too but surely you talked to them during the ad breaks?”

Cooper: “No actually, we didn’t. We go and talk and talk to our producers, whatever, so there wasn’t, we had, I had one brief conversation with them at the second ad break in relation to, that there was an issue that perhaps there was a bit too much talking over each other. And I think then when we moved into the discussion about a united Ireland was particularly interesting and particularly illuminating, and I was very, very happy with the third and fourth sections.

I see where you’re coming from in relation to the early parts. And that’s something obviously that, well we can’t change, we take very much on board.

“But one thing I would say, I think one thing that we are probably, I think we should be glad of in Ireland is that we do actually have an awful lot of really, well-intentioned politicians. Whatever you might think of the particular positions that they take in relation to things. I’d say I was impressed by all of them with the way that they stood their corner, the way they articulated their positions, some of them perhaps maybe are not as well thought out as they might think and some of them are…”

Gary Murphy: “But that’s not the way...That’s not the way you introduced the debate though. That’s not the way you introduced the debate. You introduced the debate saying that basically they were all, you know, chancers because of the Department of Finance…your views…”

Cooper: “It’s not…in fairness to Ivan, sometimes that is to provoke the response from the people to say ‘well no, we’re actually not chancers, this is what we’re doing and why we’re doing it’…”

In fairness.

Watch back in full here

Previously: Lose The Hattitude

RTÉ’s Claire Byrne

Next Monday night.

On RTÉ One, at 9.35pm.

Claire Byrne Live Leaders’ Debate.

Laura Fitzgerald writes:

“Next Monday night (27th January) Claire Byrne will host the biggest Election 2020 leaders debate of the campaign so far.

“For the very first time RTÉ will broadcast a special leaders’ debate live from Galway.

“The seven political parties leaders joining Claire on stage for the major two-hour live debate will be: Mary Lou McDonald (Sinn Féin), Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael), Brendan Howlin (Labour), Micheál Martin (Fianna Fáil), Richard Boyd Barrett (Solidarity/People Before Profit), Eamon Ryan (Green Party) and Roísín Shortall (Social Democrats).

“The leaders will also face questions from an audience of over 300 people independently selected by RED C Research polling company.”


Thanks Laura

David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan of RTÉ’s Prime Time

This morning.

RTÉ announced that it will broadcast two live television debates as part of its general election coverage. The dates have yet to be announced.

The Claire Byrne Live Leaders’ Debate will involve “leaders from a number of political parties” to debate in front of a live audience.

Secondly, in “the final days of the campaign”, Prime Time will hold a leaders’ debate which will involve “the party leaders from the two largest political parties” taking part in “a live head-to-head studio debate”.

Morning Ireland broadcaster, and former Six One presenter, Bryan Dobson will also hold a series of interviews with party leaders at 7pm on RTÉ One throughout the campaign.


On Virgin Media One…

Thanks Laura Fitzgerald


The fupp?

Whaddya nuts writes:

Face planting [by my pal Ivor Hyland] on a whole new level and adventure! Ivor used the free Msqrd app (only available for iPhone) on a few unwitting victims last night.



Dear God.



Ah jaysus.

Thanks Whaddyanuts




Switch over to the new X-Files


RTÉ, Montrose, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Michaél Martin,  Labour leader and Tanaiste Joan Burton and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams arrive for the Leaders’ Debate on RTÉ 1 at 9.35pm.

Out of picture: AAA/PBP/, Greens, Soc Dems, Independent Alliance.

Decent whistle on MM, in fairness.

More as we get it.

Irish General Election 2016: RTÉ leaders’ debate line-up sparks allegations of censorship (RT)

Pics via Petula Martyn