Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ireland : Martin/Gilmore TV3 Debate generates more heat than light (8/2/11)

Quite frankly this debate generated more heat than light. It was boring and at times bad tempered. It was particularly interesting to watch the performance of Eamon Gilmore tonight. In recent weeks he has been withering in his criticism of the FG party. Yet tonight when presented with an open goal he failed to deliver a knock out blow. And on several occasions Micheal Martin was there for the taking.

Micheal Martin sought to expose Gilmore and Labour as weak on economic policy. This he did with some success. He accused Gilmore of "chopping and changing" in a bid to win popularity. Now of course Gilmore did refer to Micheal Martin’s 13 years as minister but he failed to fully link Martin with the decisions of the cabinets. He continued to refer to Martin as minister even though he resigned after the first FF leadership coup. In this he had some success.
Key Issues Discussed (in the opening half)
  • Deficit reduction plans  of each party 
  • Their  stance on the EU-IMF deal
  • The impact  of the September 2008 bank guarantee scheme< /li>
The second half covered  issues such as
  • health
  • education 
  •  political reform.
Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil favoured a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to taxes to reduce the deficit to 3% of GDP or less by 2014 as required by the EU. He said   that the Labour proposal of a 1:1 ratio would result in higher taxes and increased borrowing because it wanted to extend the deficit-reduction deadline to 2016. He claimed that it would extend the recession like the 1980s.

"You’re going to pile debt upon debt," Mr Martin said,

But Mr Gilmore countered that cutting too deeply and too soon as advocated by FF would cripple economic growth and increase unemployment

"Your plan, your deal, will cripple the economy," the Labour leader said. "Let’s not forget something, minister — it’s your Fianna Fáil party that has got us into this hole in the first place."

In relation to the EU-IMF bailout, Mr Martin attacked Mr Gilmore for saying it was "Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way". Here Gilmores populism was coming back to haunt him. He argued that that the deal could not be changed unilaterally.

Mr Gilmore agreed that it would have to be renegotiated in consultation with the EU.
However he refused to disavow his "Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way" statement
"That’s what this country needs now — we need some leadership that will stand up for Ireland."

This debate was disappointing on a number of fronts. It produced no new insights into the thinking of the party leaders on the economic crisis. It failed to address the comments of Anglo chairman Alan Dukes to the effect that the bank could require another €15 billion of taxpayers money. This was testimony to the irrelevance of the debate. It featured a series of sterile exchanges, which tested the patience of the viewers.
It was nothing more than an academic exercise more suited to a university or high school debating society.
Scored as a debate Mr Martin came out on top marginally. In the preliminary part Eamon Gilmore was hesitant and failed to shine. However as the debate progressed he improved and had a stronger second half.
The media is obsessed with personality politics. This debate is part of the obsession. This type on nonsense has served the country very poorly.
It is interesting to note that none of the party leaders has economic expertise. The function of the next Taoiseach (Prime Minister) will be to build a cabinet, which has as many economic heavyweights as possible. Geographic considerations must not enter the equation.
The country faces three more debates. Mr Kenny the FG leader will participate in all three. Quite frankly tonight’s debate was little more than window dressing.
The economic ministers will drive the next government. A series of debates involving economic spokesmen from all parties would be much more beneficial

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