Terry Prone: No show Kenny knows our minds are made up
RTE wants two of them; TG4 would be satisfied with one; and TV3 wants several.
On radio, Matt Cooper is egging for at least one.
Tomorrow night, the first of them happens on TV3. Without Enda Kenny. Because Enda Kenny doesn't accept Vincent Browne as an impartial referee.
Now, truth be told, almost nobody accepts Vincent Browne as an impartial referee in any debate about anything.
He wouldn't be as powerful and popular as he is if he hadn't invented a new kind of TV refereeing, which mostly involves beating the hell out of one selected individual per night.
Fine Gael would have been iffy about a debate chaired by Vincent even before he recommended that their leader go into a darkened room with a bottle of whiskey and a gun.
They'd have been iffy because anybody appearing on Vincent's programme who he supposes to have any connection with the Fine Gael leader has been attacked or mocked or queried about Kenny, with Vincent making it clear that, well, the FG leader should go into a darkened room and do the needful.
Fine Gael's iffyness turned into full-scale baulking when Vincent made that remark.
The general public, and most of those related to people who have committed suicide, accepted his decent apology.
But a decent apology wasn't the point, as far as FG was concerned.
The remark had established such bias against their man as to disqualify Vincent as Chairman Of A Big Debate involving Kenny. The public puzzle, over the weekend, was why the FG leader was now saying that scheduling was the problem. Scheduling? Meaning?
It's pretty easy to guess what he meant.
The broadcasting Mothership, RTE, having been slow off the mark on the Big Debate, has now sailed into port and come up with offers no party can afford to refuse, with chairpeople who may not be as entertaining or flammable as Vincent Browne, but who, on the other hand, have not expressed passionate contempt for any of the party leaders.
Enda Kenny has agreed to do two Mothership debates. Now, given that preparation and transmission of either will take at least half a day out of his schedule, and given the RTE reach among people who vote, Fine Gael had nothing to gain -- even if Ursula Halligan were substituted for Vincent -- by agreeing to tomorrow's debate on TV3 as well.
Let them off with Micheal and Eamon and their empty chair.
Are the plain people of Ireland leaning up against lamp-posts for support in the trauma of not seeing Enda Kenny on TV3 tomorrow?
Most of the plain people of Ireland have made up their minds on two things.
First, how they're going to vote. Second, how they view Kenny.
The ones who don't like him will be thrilled to see Eamon (if they're Labour-inclined) or Micheal (if they have the courage to stay with Fianna Fail) without Kenny getting in the way and taking up airtime.
The ones who like him will do what they did at the weekend -- mob him wherever he goes.
That last point goes to the heart of this artificial controversy about the TV3 debate. Media is worked up about it. TV3 is getting so much publicity, it must be wondering if it needed to put those big ads in newspapers showing Vincent, Ursula, Sarah and Constantine all looking tough.
Ordinary folk are bored by it. They're bored because the Big Debate is always boring.
People -- other than media -- watch it for 10 minutes and then either to sleep or go to another channel.
Media watch it with notepads in hand, ready to score the participants on Killer Blows, Body Language, Deadly Gaffes and so on.
Tomorrow, Enda Kenny will be represented by an empty chair. That chair won't land a killer blow.
But it won't make any deadly gaffes, either...