herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Eamon Keane: Leaders take their final shots at convincing the voters

One afternoon, three party leaders and a series of interviews to finish off this election campaign.

I meet with Micheal Martin at FF HQ before he leaves to head home to Cork. At 14pc in the polls, does he regret taking the leadership? "Absolutely not. You could argue that it was not the most opportune time to take charge. On the other hand I see in challenge an opportunity."

I tell him that the perception of FF is of a party of the builders, tax breaks for them and so on?

"Well, yes you can say that. But you can say it again about FG and will be saying it for the next four years. There is an in-house comment here that the K Club has become the Galway Tent for FG. The only difference is that they didn't allow the journalists into the K Club. Lets call a spade a spade here. That's why corporate donations have to go."

How do you convince the ordinary voter to believe you? You lied to us. You couldn't even tell us the IMF was in town?

"Brian Cowen was saying to the IMF 'you're not coming in to town until I know what the colour of your money is'. From a communications and management point of view, to put it mildly, it didn't work."

I see in his face the tiredness. Mr Martin has had a nightmare personal year with family bereavement. I admire his guts. However, every analyst in the country has underestimated the deep wound we all feel from the choices his Government made over the years. It will hit FF big time.

Next, I'm over to Fine Gael HQ, where even with 40pc in the polls Enda Kenny is too cautious to talk about a single party government.

"It's not over till 10pm Friday night. Only when the sealing wax hardens in a knot outside the ballot box is it over."

I tell him that Mr Martin accuses him of spin, and says Mr Kenny learnt answers to questions by heart ?

"Nonsense. FF are the masters of spin. Our plan is costed. It reflects people's needs. It is not spin but fact."

I recently wrote that Mr Kenny could be a good Taoiseach because of his lack of ego. Was I right?

"It is important for me to demonstrate conviction of belief. The party was on its knees. It's been a relentless grind to get people to believe in themselves."

Mr Kenny is on the cusp of winning something great. On a personal level, who will he think of over Friday and Saturday when it is within his grasp?

"I'll think of my father and watching him back in 1973. He was elected from '54 to '73," he recalls.

Next, I'm off to Wicklow to meet Eamon Gilmore .

For Mr Gilmore, at 20pc in the polls, the choice is between a single-party FG Government or a balanced coalition with Labour.

"Total power is dangerous. A government can appoint senior gardai, members of state boards judges and so on. You also need broad support from the community, so you need a coalition to reflect that."

Have Labour paid a price for being associated with the unions?

"Maybe but I won't apologise for standing up for the most marginalised, for the homeless. We need balance in Government. Families have been decimated. We can work out solutions for families whose houses are being repossessed."

So there you have it, their final shots. It's in your hands now .

For the full interview see www.citizenkeane.ie

Promoted articles

Entertainment News