herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Savage i: Debate with more promise

Tonight's debate has more promise than all the rest. The first was irrelevant because the lead candidate wasn't there. The five-way was so overcrowded it turned into a big messy bun-fight which made it easy for the participants (short pre-learned speeches could get them through).

The one in Irish was a moment of great pride, but let's be clear, it was in Irish and talked about things like PSOs which the vast bulk of the country do not care about at all, so it didn't matter a whole pile.

But tonight might be very different. Martin has developed a Teflon coating in relation to his party's history, so he's going to be less worried about defence and more interested in attacking Kenny (particularly given the "I'm less of a teacher than you are" fight they've been in with each other). Gilmore has given up on the notion of being Taoiseach and knows his opportunity lies in undermining Kenny sufficiently that voters decide to put Labour in as watchdogs. Kenny will therefore be under attack from both men. And they are both smart, which means they will have been learning FG policy and looking for flaws with which to catch the Fine Gael leader.

The critical factor for both will be whether they can give each other space.

If they don't trip each other up, Kenny could well find himself with a very challenging situation; he may not have two opponents, he may have two interviewers. Never a good position to be in.

On the subject of interviewers, one from Newstalk is now not just reporting the news, he's making it. Chris Donoghue from their breakfast show was accused of accepting preconditions before interviewing Enda Kenny. The station leapt into action with a statement reading, "Chris Donoghue ... stated that he did not ask Enda Kenny about his pension. It has been suggested that the reason why no question was asked on the pension was because preconditions were set by Fine Gael. Newstalk wishes to state categorically that no such preconditions were in place".

As statements go, that one's weird. It wasn't 'suggested that' preconditions were set. It was stated, on air, by Chris. The statement should have read, "Chris suggested that preconditions were set by Fine Gael. You know Chris, he's the guy that said the thing everyone's having a hissy-fit about. Yesterday. On the Radio. Where loads of people heard him". In fairness to young Donoghue, it sounds like he was trying to fit an awful lot into a very quick question and the wrong end of the stick was grabbed by everyone. Then again, if you were locked in a room every morning with all 8ft of Ivan Yates, you'd be a little ambiguous too ...

Yet more proof we're not competitive enough with the rest of Europe: Germany's defence minister has become embroiled in a scandal about plagiarism. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has responded by resigning his PhD. That's why the Germans are doing so much better than us; when our guys get in trouble they just resign teaching positions. Never PhDs.

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