Is there a more accomplished TV performer in this election than John O’Dowd? The Sinn Féin man looks like someone who might get up and put his fist through your face but you may be sure that’s not what makes political opponents avoid him. O’Dowd has two great strengths: he’s fluent and he’s unflappable. It doesn’t matter what the topic or what the circumstances, O’Dowd brings to it relaxed confidence and clarity of expression. A bit like Nick Clegg, when you think of it. Like Clegg, he knows how to ground a discussion in particulars. In the British leaders’ debate last Thursday, Brown and Cameron were flailing about, struggling to locate a point of difference between them. Clegg grabbed the issue of Trident, costing £100 billion (can you believe these sums?) and said it made no sense. Similarly, O’Dowd was part of a slightly self-conscious group of politicians gathered by a lake in Fermanagh the other evening. I doubt if presenter Noel Thompson did it deliberately, but he bowled O’Dowd a ball which begged to be whacked out of the park: which of the national parties would O’Dowd like to see elected? Ha ha ha haaaaa! The big Shinner opened his shoulders and the ball was a tiny dot, disappearing into the rushes on the other side of the lake. Presumably when Noel said ‘national’ he meant the main British political parties? Right. In that case, it was strictly a matter for the British people, who they decide they want to govern them, just as it SHOULD be a matter for the Irish people to decide who THEY want to govern them. Game, set and match, or whatever the cricketing equivalent is, to O’Dowd. People sometimes like to conjecture on who in Sinn Fein might be equipped to succeed Gerry Adams when he finally steps down as leader. That won’t be for a day or two but when it comes, the Sinn Féin party would do well to take a long, careful look at the man with the bruiser looks and the unflustered eloquence.