The Vincent Browne #Aras11 Debate Report Cards

Dave Ryan discusses a much improved second debate

Some described it as chaos and anarchy, some called it gripping entertainment. Tuesday night we all bore witness to TV3’s Presidential debate (labelled the ‘Big Presidential Debate’, out of either a sense of grandeur or irony) hosted by Observer favourite, Vincent Browne. The Late Late debate had largely been calm and bland, but this debate was certainly neither of these things. Let’s see how the candidates did.

Gay Mitchell- Since the beginning of the campaign, we’ve been hearing about Gay Mitchell the fighter, the scrapper, and yet all we got on Friday was Gay Mitchell the bland.  Last night, the fighter arrived. Gay Mitchell was firmly on the attack throughout the evening. His attacks were almost entirely focused on Martin McGuinness, much as they were on Friday, but on this occasion he was less willing to let it go. The problem with this is that in the face of Mitchell’s attacks, McGuinness was unphased. Gay Mitchell actually showed some personality tonight, and whereas he did make a better showing, he needed to do more to separate himself from the pack. A vast improvement, but still not enough for what he needs. Verdict: ***

Mary Davis- Again an improvement on Friday, the air she gave off that made her so unlikeable on Friday had somewhat dissipated during the early exchanges.  That said, she failed to account for the fact that Vincent Browne is not as laid-back an interviewer as Ryan Tubridy. Vincent proved to be far more insistent on Davis explaining her role on various boards. Vincent made the point that it was a poor message if the voters elected someone with an association to the banking sector, given what banks have done to the country.  She was ultimately unsuccessful in explaining this away, and was silent for large parts of the more heated parts of the debate Verdict: **

Seán Gallagher- More of the same this evening from Gallagher. He speaks incredibly well and is very enthusiastic about the job, but his past association to Fianna Fáil keeps creeping up, and has yet to be dealt with. On a night where Gallagher needed a strong performance to build momentum, he only did okay. Verdict: **

Dana Rosemary Scallon- Enough with the bloody constitution already. Dana brought her now trademark prop. Was not pressed on the issue of the seal of confession or gay marriage this evening, but still showed a remarkable lack of understanding of the powers of the president.  She has repeatedly claimed that as President she would keep Europe at bay, but Vincent pointed out that she couldn’t really do anything about it. Her response to questions like this has been to say that she would refuse to sign any such bills that came across her office. However, what that would mean is that the bill would then be referred to the courts, a system through which, as Vincent would later point out, raises more constitutional issues. Dana’s repeated claims that she is going to save the Irish people and their constitution has started to become tired and patronising in this reviewer’s opinion, as it implies we cannot perceive threats to our constitution ourselves. Verdict: **

Martin McGuinness- Mr. McGuinness had an evening of two halves. He was being attacked from all sides throughout the debate, and maintained composure throughout, and still has this ability to sound presidential. However, in a moment of television gold, he was subjected to an incredible attack by Vincent Browne and his library of books that refute Martin McGuinness’ claim to have left the IRA in 1974. McGuinness certainly came off badly in that particular exchange. Another issue I’ve noticed throughout this campaign is that, even though he is not entirely to blame for it, McGuinness spends so much time on the defensive in every appearance he makes that he seems to have difficulty getting his message across. The problem with this is that whereas he will maintain his SF base, but it will be very tough to increase his share of the vote. He topped the tv3 like-o-meter,  but the like-o-meter isn’t exactly the most accurate measure of success. Thursday’s Red C poll will be a greater measure of how well he’s doing. Verdict: **1/2

David Norris- Oh wow. Where to start? Senator Norris started off quite well, and it seemed that, for a time, he was going to put in a very good showing and avoid Vincent the Destroyer. But in the final ten minutes, the question came. We’ve all heard Norris’ claim that the reason that Norris has not released the seven subsequent clemency letters is that he has received legal advice in Israel telling him that the release of these letters would compromise certain details of the case. Vincent asked him the relatively simple question of who in Israel gave him this legal advice, a question that clearly flustered Norris. Vincent went further by saying he’d been in contact with an Israeli academic of some sort, and Vincent’s conclusion was that Norris’ reason for not releasing the letters was rubbish. It was after this that Norris lost his cool and began trying to shout Vincent down, reflecting even worse on himself and failing to clarify anything. A bad night for Norris, and with today’s revelation in the Indo that Norris had been receiving disability payments for 16 years as a TCD lecturer while he was a sitting Senator means that the Norris campaign is in serious trouble. Verdict: *

Michael D. Higgins- Michael D. has become the runaway bookies’ favourite in this race, both because of a lack of competition, and because he has yet to disgrace himself. In tonight’s debate he was not drawn into the mud-slinging with some other candidates, and when grilled about his role in a coalition government with Fianna Fáil, he very frankly admitted he was ashamed. He once again demonstrated that he understands the role of president more than any other candidate. He didn’t say a lot tonight, but by doing so, he managed to separate himself from the chaos. Verdict: ***

Vincent Browne- What can be said about this evening’s host? Unlike Tubridy on Friday, Vincent was more than willing to let candidates tear strips out of one another. And when he got bored with that, he gleefully tore them apart himself. As mentioned, the books incident was an all time great moment, but he also gave his fair share of criticism to each candidate, the only possible exception being Dana, who he could have easily criticised more (though polls seem to indicate she’s efficient enough at discrediting herself). Chaired a compelling, entertaining, and at times hilarious debate. Verdict: *****

Twitter Highlights:

@daveryaniv: Remember when everyone was like ‘this will be a completely positive campaign’? Went well, didn’t it?

@daveryaniv: Gay Mitchell has the personality of a cinder block


@diskoboxx:  Weird set. Looks like the worst game show in the world.

@daveryaniv: Anyone else notice Norris laughing his arse off during Dana’s rant?

@fergal: Do Mitchell and McGuinness think we haven’t noticed the sexual tension between them?

@donalfallon: At least Martin McGuinness was never in Fianna Fail or Fine Gael.

@Aidan_Rowe: Vincent Browne is going to turn up in a bog in a week’s time, I just know it.


@KeithBroni: BOOK’d

@daveryaniv: I love this debate so much. The country is doomed like, but this is great entertainment.

@thobiasinkblot: Norris Is pissing himself

@PaudiMcTurkish: Sean, your membership of Fianna Fail is very worrying for me. For that reason, i’ve to say i’m out

@PaudiMcTurkish: Now this is how a debate should happen. I back @daveryanIV and his motion that Vinny does every debate EVER

@daveryaniv: Dana brought the EU constitution Friday. Vincent Browne brought a fucking library with him tonight

@qualitystweet: “Dana, what’s your favourite humming noise?” – Gay Mitchell

@holdencaul: Love how it’s as embarrassing to be associated with Fianna Fail as the IRA

@samuelthekiwi: I am enraged by Davis saying she’s been open. It took her weeks to release figures – only after they were leaked

@daveryaniv: #aras11 drinking game: do a shot every time Dana picks up a constitution

@Aidan_Rowe: “I agree with all the other candidates that suicide is bad. That’s why as President I will raise people from the dead.”

@daveryaniv: Vincent Browne has thrown a spanner in the works for Norris here.

@daveryaniv: This is amazing. In 90 minutes, Vincent Browne will have made all 7 unelectable

@wanay12: Norris has just been gutted by browne

@daveryaniv: Vinny to Martin: “Might be a bit embarrassing meeting Prince Charles, seeing as you murdered his uncle.” My word.

@SJillCourtney: Other people have security blankets. Dana has a security constitution.

@PaudiMcTurkish: The Star front page “Vincent is real debate winner”. Jesus, they got something right for once

Dave Ryan

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One thought on “The Vincent Browne #Aras11 Debate Report Cards

  1. Pingback: Observer Week in Review: 3-7 October 2011 | The Student Observer

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