First Leaders’ Debate – Where to now?

Politics is a fast moving game. What’s done is done and you have to get on with things. After the first Leaders’ Debate last night on TV3/Newstalk all the Leaders will be pondering what they have to do for the next time. Here at Slugger O’Toole we are all heart. So Johnny Fallon has some free and open advice for each of the participants.

Micheál Martin
– Next time out everyone will be gunning for you. Welcome this, a strong performance lets you take centre stage but be prepared the FF record is going to be thrown thick and fast next time out.

– A good debate is all well and good but the hard part is turning it into votes. You need it to link to your candidates on the ground. The debate must link more to FF policy, what is it that’s different? What is the idea or change? So far the policies all sound pretty much the same. There will be no votes in a debate unless you can tie your performance to your party policy and its benefit.

– There must be something more personal. With the historic stuff coming at you it won’t be easy. You need to find the personal journey, the lessons you learned and took with you, your transformation must mirror the transformation ordinary people have felt. Their outlook has changed, has yours?

– Watch the hand movements, a little bit of expression is great but too much will become distracting.

Enda Kenny
– The pressure will be on to keep Micheal Martin in check. You need to interject but be careful do it sparingly. Do not get involved in head to head bickering. 3 good put downs in the course of the show, well timed, will do the trick.

– Yes you need to step forward a bit more but not too much. Don’t get goaded into a fight. When you do the body language screams your irritation. You need to hold that relaxed look. Martin will be pushing your buttons, avoid getting riled by it.

– Focus the debate on the narrative. Each mention of progress must be followed with what happens next. Don’t leave the point hanging like its a clap on your own back. Let people know there is a plan you are working to.

– Don’t keep reverting to the FF past. A few lines on this will be fine, but remember to de-construct their current policy too.

Gerry Adams
– We all like a passionate speaker. However, there can be a fine line between passion and aggression. You need to tone this down.

– Do not use the word ‘Mandate’. Ever again. It’s over use in the northern context has made it a bingo word that just distracts the viewers.

– The other Leaders want to suck you in to a row where you are left looking defensive and angry. You cannot let this happen. Dismiss them quickly and move on.

– Your control of the argument on figures has improved but be careful of it. It is pulling you into a head to head where you are focussed on the failures or wrongs of the other parties and then made to look angry. People need to see a compassionate side to you. They don’t want to hear of what is wrong with the other parties, they know that. They want you to show them you are not just the party of tough guys. Human stories compassionately delivered are the key here.

– Understated, humble and natural are qualities often overlooked in a debate like this. Find the opportunities to use them.

Joan Burton
– Keep calm. Opening the debate was hard but you cannot let those nerves show through. Yes the party is in a tough place but in truth its unlikely to get worse, this is a chance to make it better.

– Stop the interruptions and quick comments. They annoy the listener and they are the unrehearsed points where you are most likely to say something in error. Time and place your interjections carefully. Make them and withdraw do not keep bickering over the point.

– The men are all focussed on standing tall and looking tough. Call them on it. Use your smile a lot more. Relax into the role. Differentiate yourself from them, don’t let them dominate the tone.

– In 2011 the Labour figures slid down as Eamon Gilmore got more and more friendly with Enda Kenny in Debates. Look back over the debate. Note how many times you went out of your way to share the credit with Enda and FG and how many times it was reciprocated. You cannot afford to be seen like a complete team. Labour must have its own identity. You need to know those issues and disagree with Enda on them. If you don’t disagree in the debate how can we ever imagine you disagreeing behind closed doors? Enda will get over it. Your party comes first right now.

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  • ” We all like a passionate speaker. However, there can be a fine line between passion and aggression. You [Gerry Adams] need to tone this down.” This suggests Adams was overly aggressive in the debate. Was I watching the same one as you, Johnny?

  • Robin Keogh

    I thought Gerry was assertive rather than aggressive and did pretty well preventing MM from delivering a knock out blow as he spat out names of the dead across the studio in such a tasteless manner. He has been at this for years now and it is so declasse. It has had no impact on SF and will continue that way.

    I also thought Gerry did well in packing the three leaders together as a collective failure over the decades.

    Having said that Martin himself was very ‘swift’ and articulate. He is a fine speaker and a solid preformer. Its just a pity he doesn’t mean anything he actually says.

    Enda was overly cautious, he can afford to be. So far ahead in the polls, why say anything that might sink him; which he isquite likely to do if he lets go.

    Joan is Joan. I cant objectively comment because the hoarse screech of her voice hurts my head too much. I dont imagine her comment regarding Father Mc Verry helped much.

  • Jollyraj

    “I thought Gerry was assertive rather than aggressive and did pretty well” (stop press: Robin praises Gerry. A fiver to the first poster who can highlight an instance of Robin disapproving of something Gerry said or did.)……”MM spat out names of the dead….. it is so declasse. It has had no impact on SF and will continue that way.” Yes, Robin, it seems abundantly clear to me that the SF leader has always come across as being entirely unmoved by any mention of the dead, as long as they were not Republicans.

  • Gingray

    Ha ha ha, very good 🙂

  • Robin Keogh

    You know fine well i meant no impact on SF regarding public support. Try playing ball there fella.

  • willieric

    ‘Understated, humble and natural’ are not relevant phrases when narcissists clash. Good point regarding the word mandate. SF reps have been summer schooled on appropriate sound bite words and phrases including mandate, and ‘very clear’. Incredibly, SF MLA Alex Maskey used the latter phrase 17 times in an twelve minute Ulster radio Nolan show interview last September. He holds the record. Time to put that phrase to rest. Please.
    Joan’s voice can be monotonous but compares favourably with most topical women speakers as her comments recently are more of a responsive nature. Several other female TD’s appear to be almost permanently on the attack, with very harsh unladylike style sounds.
    Correct….Enda can afford to be cautious. There’s the rub.

  • hugh mccloy

    Gerry was way out of his depth, a philosophical tone works in N Ireland not so much the other side of the border.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘I also thought Gerry did well in packing the three leaders together as a collective failure over the decades.’

    Fair enough although I’d have said ‘relative failure ‘ particularly since about 2000 and before that in the mid 1970’s when Government buried it’s head in the sands and pretended the oil crisis and it’s financial consequences were NOT happening . They finally faced reality around 1987 by which time about 250,000 people had left the country . The Bertie Ahern /BIffo Cowan head in the sands episode has also left the Irish electorate those who can still remember the day before yesterday anyway that politicians -all of them – want to spend other people’s money while living on the hog off them . It was always so .

    There is no Exchequer outside Dublin to which SF can go to help pay for any extra spending they might wish to incur. SF need to be more aware of that in the Republic than in NI where others pick up the tab in extremis .

    SF like Labour in the UK and the Democrats in the USA and the SDP in Germany and others have yet to come up with policies that will redress the imbalance in the current economic situation in which corporations and their interests come first and a very large section of the people come nowhere at all and fall further behind .

    Gerry is no Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn well not yet anyway 🙂

  • Greenflag 2

    Indeed give them the NI folks a big word like philosophy or a combo word like peace process , power sharing , or reconciliation or any other buzz word to bamboozle the folks and it’ll keep them at each other’s throats for several decades while the world moves on 🙂

    All it took was a small word -4 letters to be precise which sent the newly minted Irish Free State into Civil (actually very uncivil war ) . And the word was Oath .

    Ironically both parties to the 1920’s Civil War might be forced into a ‘mandated ‘ coalition simply because the Irish electorate doesn’t trust either of them to govern the country in a one party government . Those days are over it would seem . SF have to recognise that reality also .

  • Gingray

    I was laughing at this:
    “stop press: Robin praises Gerry”
    I thought it was accurate and quite funny.

    But I think you are quite wrong about Adams being out of his depth, or knowing what works. By nearly all fair accounts he did quite well, a bit aggressive at times, but superior to Joan and Enda. I didnt come away thinking he car crashed like 9/10 years ago, and was more coherant than the Taoiseach.