Leaders Debate: Should Sinn Fein take heart at Martin’s strategy?

The Fabulous Five Debate is over and post-fight analysis is underway across the airwaves. It will be interesting to see where the media narrative fixes itself in the coming hours, but early indications suggest that the line will be one emphasising Enda Kenny’s coming of age as a Taoiseach-like figure.

What was clear throughout was that the Fianna Fail leader had adopted an aggressive style and that much of his calculated ire was reserved for Gerry Adams. Republicans will be heartily relieved that Adams performed competently in a discussion forum that suited him- with five voices seeking a constant hearing, policy depth and awareness was never going to be the focus, though Martin was keen to lampoon Adams at every opportunity.

Yet Sinn Fein should take heart from this as, clearly, there are reasons being confirmed at ground level which explain why the Soldiers of Destiny have it in for Sinn Fein- and Mick has picked this up regarding the strong polling figures being linked with Jonathan O’Brien in Cork.

I have already outlined the reasons why I believe Sinn Fein should not have put Adams at the table for this discussion but, once the decision was made, it became less about utilising the opportunity to advance the party’s prospects in the South and more about avoiding any embarassing slip-ups which could have damaged the prospect for significant gains in the coming weeks. It looks like mission accomplished on the latter score at this stage.

But of course, as always, time will tell….

  • stewart1

    Slugger is obviously not the site to discuss the debate tonight but the Politics.ie post poll thread is interesting for a wide range of opinions

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t think he calculated it well enough. He had none of the playfulness of Ahern or the ruthlessness of McDowell. In truth he is fighting on three fronts. The only break he got was when Kenny and Gilmore beset each otehr.

  • Mick Fealty

    Fair enough. That’s for each to choose Stewart. But that ‘poll’ result is not a million miles from my own analysis:

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2011/02/14/rte-leaders-debate-live-blog/comment-page-1/#comment-825811

  • Mark

    Water off a ducks back for Adams , heard it all therfore and so have the voters . Martin is a sound , articulate debater but he got sidetracked and wasted valuable time getting personal with Adams .

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I was a bit surprised that Micheál Martin went after Gerry Adams quite so ruthlessly. Yet in retrospect its obvious that FF canvassers must be worried. At best they cancelled each other out.
    And Adams can take heart that Gilmore was poor.
    Ive already stated that Adams should have stood down in favour of Doherty or O’Caolain (perhaps a severe dose of the flu could have been diagnosed) as necessarily the minutae of southern life was lost on Adams and yet he did well.

  • stewart1

    Sorry Mick did not mean to sound judgemental, just that their was massive traffic, commentary and analysis on the other site regarding tonight’s debate. And the poll is interesting in that it gives a wide spectrum of opinion on the outcome of the leaders debate.

  • The Word

    A good performance by everybody. As per usual Adams appealed to the ignorant and bluffed it well. Had Pearse been on board they would have been pummelled into submission as he would have given clear answers to questions. The nonsense would have been seen.

    Oh, how Gerry stood up for the Irish as he listed the achievements of the British Labour Party. I don’t know what that war was about. “Default” and let the British bail us out. Maybe.

  • Comrade Stalin

    As per usual Adams appealed to the ignorant and bluffed it well.

    Let them eat cake, eh ?

  • ItwasSammyMcNally

    Michael Martin : “The banks havent had a bail-out”.

  • Brian Walker

    For me the important point was that Kenny did not fall below already low expectations. He scored most against his putative coalition partner Gilmore. This could be a problem, even though Gilmore is his only natural target. Kenny sounded convincing as he dismissed Gilmore’s claim of an extra 5 billion black hole ( i’ve no idea whether its true or not). FG may be going for majority government but they both have to leave space to wriggle back.

    Naturally all of them wanted to ease the pain of the cuts all round, except perhaps the brutally honest Gormley who has nothing to lose. For example, noone wil be left without a roof over their head but does this really mean no evictions?

    .
    All the leaders would have scored higher if they had dared to answer the questions boldly and immediately, sounding as if it comes form the heart, without launching into irritating little party spiels first to gain thinking time. In future debates, the one who gives the most convincing direct answer may be the one to break out of the pack.

    I suspect northerners pay more attention to the Adams performance than the debate actually merited. He naturally pitted himself against all those other parties. Their dilemma was whether to take the bait or ignore him. I suspect all except Martin were right not to bandy too many words with him, in their own interests. But even though the SF sums don’t add up I doubt if he harmed his cause this time.

    All round this was a damage limitation exercise that worked pretty well for everybody. It was well handled by the chair I thought. However RTE might have been better to have given them each a one minute opening pitch in order the better to force them to stay on the point during the questions.

    The question arises: will the TV debates infuence the voters?. The first one without Kenny on TV3 seems to have left no impact. RTE debates with a full cast should matter more. Or might it be that becuase of the depth of the crisis voters have made their minds up already? That would be a verdict to haunt the broadcasters. We’ll know soon enough.

  • 241934 john brennan

    The Irish News judges it – ENDA 8, MICHEAL 7, EAMON 5, GERRY 5, and JOHN 4.

    In the main Gerry made sweeping generalizations, particularly against FF. Surprisingly the others (apart from Micheal) refrained from responding with specific references to Gerry’s own 28-year political track record in West Belfast, now concluded with:

    The most socially deprived city area in Europe.

    A quarter of the working population unemployed.

    Another quarter claiming and receiving permanent invalidity benefits.

    The lowest levels of educational achievement

    The highest rates of alcohol and drug addiction.

    The highest suicide rates in Europe.

    The lowest levels of life expectancy in these Islands

    Increasing punishment beatings and shootings (kneecappings), as summary injustice inflicted upon those allegedly involved in anti-social behavior, while SF keeps complaining about hospital costs and waiting lists. Etc.

    Gerry asserts he was never in the IRA, but having left West Belfast for Louth, his former constituents now tag him with the other old IRA acronym: IRA – I RAN AWAY

  • slappymcgroundout

    “But even though the SF sums don’t add up I doubt if he harmed his cause this time.”

    Brian, nobody’s sums add up. There is simply no way in the world that 4.5 million people can repay the outstanding debt. So to credit the others is simply absurd in the extreme. Gerry otherwise offered the one tidbit that perfectly illustrated how dear ole Eire came to be bankrupt, when he noted that the Taoiseach, who represents 4.5 million humans, earns more in salary than the President of the US of A, who represents right around 307 million humans. Toss in the respective GDP figures…

  • Kevin Barry

    John Brennan 8675309

    They tag GA with I Ran Away? Really? Since when? Please add something to the debate instead of more of the same.

  • 241934 john brennan

    Kevin Barry:
    Yes I know “IRA – I RAN AWAY” is old hat. I first heard it in 1969, in the context of Bombay Street. But I have again heard it a few times recently in the context of GA’s flit from Belfast to Louth.

    Today, Micheal Martin promises that every time Gerry Adams talks about “fraud and corruption” he will challenge him. Even if Micheal challenges Gerry only on his political track record in West Belfast, there is plenty of scope for “pot-kettle-black.” – and there is more than enough blackening to ensure that Gerry emerges more like a chimney-sweep than Micheal.

  • Munsterview

    Chris : “What was clear throughout was that the Fianna Fail leader had adopted an aggressive style and that much of his calculated ire was reserved for Gerry Adams……”

    To repeat points made in my reply to ‘wee buns’ some threads back, this is not a real debate nor can it be. Kenny is good in FG controlled encounters with the party fateful and in ‘one to one’ or with small groups. He is ‘chairman of the board’ material not ‘Great Leader’ inspirational outside of that context.

    Kenny has won, he can risk-take and add a few more % points……. or gaff big time as he have done so often in the past. FG handlers have a series of meetings lined up like yesterday morning in Germany where they can show him on the evening news rubbing shoulders with the EU Christian Democrat Heads and looking statesmanlike.

    Anyone who expects new politics from Enda or Fine Gael have only to look at this incident : basically Enda went to Germany on a PR publicity stunt, he is friendly with Angela for years and has been sitting next to Angela at Christian Democrat meetings. He could have got his information on a phone call to her or a video conference. Why did he not do just that ?

    This is not new politics, this is Fianna Fail stroke politics as practiced by Lenihan and the rest.
    Air Taxi in and out of Brussels : this is the waste of John O’Donoghue before he had his wings clipped. At least Douoghue waited until he had Ministerial office before he started to take planes to go the the toilet.

    Enda is squandering resources for optics even before he is in office. Will any of the Daily or Sunday Newspapers go to town on this and find out what this little PR wheeze cost. It is old stunts, old politics and same old media complacency.

    Have anyone in press and politics learned anything ?

    May I remind every one of what a teenage second level debating student knows, a debate takes place when certain proposals are emphatically made and where these proposals are vigorously opposed by the other party. What we got last night was four leaders giving four answer to questions. Any back-room person or political journalist could have scripted the four replies in light of known party policies.

    Did anything new emerge ? Is this not the same ‘pretend public politics’ that we always have had ? The real politics of yesterday was sending Kenny to Germany for a photo opportunity to counter any likely gaff he would make last night.

    And so it continues, Martin using election resources and opportunity to stabilize Fianna Fail and get out of the ER emergency after it’s crash, Enda obeying ‘big Phil’ and keeping his mouth shut except for political platitudes or bland restatements of non contentious policies, Gilmore talking out both sides of his mouth to appeal simultaneously to working class unemployed and well salaried middle class.

    Gerry Adams, Joe Higgens, Barrett and the rest on the left can play to the gallery and build up their base knowing that they must make hay while the electoral sun shines to to build up their bases.

    Fine Gaels manifesto launch has just been described on RTE radio as a ‘steady considered event’ That is all we have got so far from FF, FG and Labour ‘steady considered events’ pr handled, massaged and controlled to to the ultimate possible degree.

    This is also what we will get and this election will limp over the finish line without any real debate, despite the appalling mess and dire straights the country is in ! As the majority political consensus is for establishment party politics of the three main parties, neither will we get any necessary fundamental and necessary root and branch reform, that would be turkeys voting for Christmas.

  • PaulT

    “his former constituents now tag him with the other old IRA acronym: IRA – I RAN AWAY”

    AND

    “I have again heard it a few times recently in the context of GA’s flit from Belfast to Louth.”

    Are two mightily different statements.

  • Macanna

    And leaving a very secure seat in belfast for a risky one in louth is hardly running away.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    And leaving a very secure seat in belfast for a risky one in louth is hardly running away.

    Louth was a very secure SF seat. Adams is a shoe-in there.

  • Scáth Shéamais

    The most socially deprived city area in Europe.
    A quarter of the working population unemployed.
    Another quarter claiming and receiving permanent invalidity benefits.
    The lowest levels of educational achievement
    The highest rates of alcohol and drug addiction.
    The highest suicide rates in Europe.
    The lowest levels of life expectancy in these Islands

    Where did you get the stats for this?

  • Kevin Barry

    JB, thanks for the reply. I think the other posters have pretty much summed up what I was thinking.

    I appreciate you’re anti-SF and GA, but at the same while I do not wish to censure you is there any chance you could provide us with figures or some insight as opposed to using this as some kind of soap box to say what you always say?