Thursday, January 13, 2011

A bit of political Four Play

A four-way debate - that is the only fair way that RTE can accommodate all the political parties in the run-up to the general election.

In the past, it was simply a two-way debate between what were the two biggest parties - Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Last year, Labour - quite rightly - was putting RTE under pressure to ensure that the leaders’ debate before the election would be a three-way one including themselves.

Judging by the opinion polls of the past 12 months, Labour can no longer be regarded as a small party, sidelined to a minor debate.

But now a new power has emerged - Sinn Fein. And with the last opinion poll showing that they had as much support as Fianna Fail, surely there is a valid argument to include them in such a debate?

To keep them out based just on the number of TDs the party has at the moment would be a gross insult to the people, many who, for the first time, are preparing to give the party a vote.

And it is the same for the Labour supporters. Labour will be a significant power in the next Government and Eamon Gilmore deserves a podium at the leaders’ debate.

Look at the leaders’ debates across in the UK in the run-up to the elections there last year. They were three-way debates and it wasn’t any huge problem. In fact, they were informative and entertaining.

The Greens will, no doubt, want a place in a leaders’ debate if it is a free for all. But a line has to be drawn and with little more than 3% support, it is hard to argue that they should be there.

A four-way debate is the fairest way that RTE can deal with this.

But then again, it may not be RTE who does it at the end of the day. TV3 will, no doubt, be keen to pitch for their slice of the action.

To be fair to TV3, they are taking the bull by the horns in overhauling TV coverage of elections.

They want an end to the archaic broadcasting moratorium in advance of polling day.

Current guidelines drawn up by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland force TV and radio stations to stop virtually all political coverage in a 48 hour period, which includes the day before polling day and the
day of the poll itself.

However this does not apply to print media, online media or to foreign media which are available in Ireland.

TV3 believes this moratorium has no basis in law, is non-existent in other countries, is ineffective and is archaic.

Final round for Cowen

And so reads the Gospel according to Seanie FitzPatrick:

“For information (on the economy), one of the best sources is For analysis, read the Economist. But for the real McCoy, you can’t beat the nineteenth hole on the golf course.”

Forget about the economy, forget about the state of the banks, forget about the politicians who are about as popular as nasty veruccas - it seems that a simple round of golf may have put the final nail in Brian Cowen’s political coffin.

While this column is a true believer that golf is a good walk spoiled, it may now be a case of golf being a good career spoiled!

Blame Game for Brain Drain

RTE screened a remarkable and moving documentary on Monday night entitled Departure Day, in which it chronicled the plight of our young (and old) being forced to emigrate to find work.

To Canada and Australia and other corners of the globe they went in search of a brighter future for themselves and their families.

However, it was interesting to see how people tried to put their own political spin on the heartbreaking - and avoidable - subject of emigration.

Most, naturally enough, blamed the Government for the mess, saying that they had done absolutely nothing to stop the brain drain from the country.

Many of those critics were from the ranks of Fine Gael and Labour.

However, the last big emigration wave that Ireland witnessed was back in the 80s when, guess who, was in power? Fine Gael and Labour.

When challenged on this, their response was that they inherited the mess.

Well, they are about to inherit another mess now - are they up to the challenge of solving it? Time will tell.

Dan leads the race to be Top Twit

While we don’t want to start the New Year off by offending someone, I’m sure Dan Boyle won’t mind that he is being tipped to be the biggest political twit of 2011!

Bookies Paddy Power have installed the Cork Senator as their favourite to send the most tweets between now and the forthcoming general election.

Dan is a well-known social media enthusiast with over 8,900 followers on Twitter and has tweeted a thumb-numbing 3,120 times.

Others in the running for the title include Fine Gael Senator Paschal Donohue, Green TDs Paul Gogarty and Ciaran Cuffe and Fianna Fail’s Chris Andrews.

Fine Gael spokesperson for Transport and the Marine, Simon Coveney, who gave Taoiseach Brian Cowen a morning to remember last September is available to back at 25/1.

Ken Robertson from Paddy Power said when it comes to Twitter ‘Dan Boyle, with almost 10,000 followers, is the man with everyone in his rear view mirror’.