Did you watch the leaders’ debate from Galway last night? I stayed up for the full two hours and found it pretty engrossing. Mind you, I kept glancing at Twitter, where the comments on the debate were frequently scabrous and hilarious, and better than the telly.
Among the Twitter comments were people running a score card for the performance of the party leaders. Richard Boyd-Barrett was easily the most effective: he spoke with passion, he cited facts and figures with ease, and the audience loved him. Mary Lou McDonald invariably followed in second, even before she raised her hurley stick and whacked right and left, noting that one of her opponents (that’s you, Micheál) had just about bankrupted the state, while the other (take a bow, Leo) had displayed his fiscal rectitude by building the most expensive hospital in the world. The audience loved that.
But you have to take these debates for what they are – gladiatorial contests. The quality of a party or its leader shouldn’t be judged by whether they beat the crap out of a debate opponent or put their foot in it right up to mid-thigh. You could be a clear-thinking, effective leader of a strong and compassionate party, and still be pretty useless in TV debates. But it was fun.
Twitter also confirmed that Claire Byrne was a top-notch chairperson (even though she was standing) and that her new hair style is lovely. That’s the way Twitter goes – from speaking relevant truths to frivolous and often mocking comment.
The newspapers appear to agree that nobody landed a knock-out blow; but I must say that Micheál Martin came across as irritable and a bit hyper- the sort of man you might like on your side in a pub argument, but not necessarily the kind of guy you’d like looking after your welfare. Leo, on the other hand, was relatively sunny in his persona, and had one of the quotations of the night when he conceded that there were, in Fine Gael, some head-bangers, just as there were some head-bangers in every party. That, as Jane Austen said, is a truth universally acknowledged.
So when’s the next big voter poll? I can’t wait to see if Mary Lou made the impact I think she did.