Updated: 17/02/16 : 03:45:25
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Sligo Dail hopefuls kick off radio debate on screen

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

TWO ITEMS emerged from the first Sligo constituency debate hosted by Ocean FM last night, Tuesday.

First, the four main parties in this contest again sounded jaded and so predictable.

Secondly, there is a fair bit of public anger still out there. Will it vote in Sligo, and how so?

Dissatisfaction refuses to go away and the Red C poll in this morning's ''Irish Sun'' shows a further two percent drop for Fine Gael.

That's four points dropped by the main Government party in polls by the same company since the official campaign kicked off.

The 63% who ''want change,'' as identified in The Irish Times MRBI Ipsos poll a fortnight ago, may be slowly turning the screw.

Sligo's Glasshouse Hotel was the venue for last night's event, which was also streamed live on the worldwide web.

The recorded event will be broadcast by Ocean FM this morning, Wednesday.

The sound and picture quality, bar one minor hitch early on, was excellent throughout.

'Big Mistake'

The webcast scored one biggie over radio, too, when Deirdre O'Sullivan of the Save Our Cancer Services campaign walked up to the candidates platform.

O'Sullivan cooly planked a copy before Perry of his (broken) promises from way back in 2011.

Viewers and audience also heard a playback of (some) promises made back then on the breast cancer services in Sligo.

John Perry conceded his ''big mistake'' early on but he was not taking all of the blame.

He wanted it ''put on the record'' that the cancer services had been removed (by Mary Harney and Fianna Fáil) before he came on the scene.

Nine of the eighteen candidates took part Tuesday, with a further nine going through the radio rigour on screen tonight in the same venue.

The nine candidates introduced last night were:-

Senator Marc MacSharry, Fianna Fáil; Leslie O'Hora, Green Party; Bernie O'Hara, independent; Tony McLoughlin and John Perry, both Fine Gael.

Also there were Chris MacManus, Sinn Fein; Finnbar Filan, Renua; Bernard Sweeney and Marie Casserly, both independent.

Facing Flak

The first frisson of excitement came when Leslie O'Hara pointed out the Good Friday Agreement allows patients on waiting lists get (some) appointments at the South West Hospital (Erne) in Enniskillen.

For reasons best known to herself, Bernie O'Hara took umbrage and accused the Green Party man of wanting to ''export'' our problems.

Hmm. The same might be said -- but went unsaid -- of O'Hara's refusal to countenance abortion in the Irish State. We ''export'' that issue too?

Sitting Fine Gael TDs McLoughlin and Perry must be commended, fairly, for showing up and facing real flak.

Both might well send a message to their party's elders to do the same, soon, or prepare for the backbenches.

'Broad Church'

Marc MacSharry described Fianna Fáil as ''a broad church'' which accommodated many opinions.

That will be welcome news to all those who were expelled over the years for their dissenting views.

He was supported by a party presence in the audience, picked out several times by the cameras.

But Marc Mac got off lightly when he seemed to suggest that Leitrim, or Donegal, had never been sundered by the Soldiers of Destiny, ie Fianna Fáil.

Chopped Pieces

A camera crew from RTE once arrived in Carrick on Shannon from Dublin to interview myself on this very topic in the 1970s.

This was after Fianna Fáil had chopped pieces of Leitrim off into THREE counties and three constituencies.

There were pieces of Leitrim to be found in Donegal, a piece in with Roscommon and the remainder in with Sligo.

         Eugene McGloin (left) being interviewed by RTE's Nick Coffey in 1977

Audience Favourite

Overall, my main observation of last night's first local debate was that there was no interplay, no teasing out of contradictions, between the nine players.

There was no clear audience favourite last night but nor was it fully clear to the viewer if they had a villain in mind instead.

Meanwhile, the two funniest lines of the night both concerned Fine Gael.

John Perry was reasonably certain that Enda Kenny was no longer in receipt of a teacher's pension.

The debate moderator Niall Delaney of Ocean FM wondered, tongue in cheek, was Enda now confiding that type of info to John!

Not mentioned was the small matter of the half million euro John took from Enda's election war chest through his High Court reversal of his deselection.

Red Jacket

But it was Bernie O'Hara stole the night and thumped Tony McLoughlin with her one liner.

Viewers heard how Tony once told her he would never legislate for abortion etc etc.

With a great sense of timing she added that if Tony now told her she was wearing a red jacket -- she was last night -- she would take it off and check!

Been there, done that, Bernie. The audience loved it. Not for nothing is he called 'The  X in Oxo.'

Independent candidate Marie Casserly had a charmed life all last night.

1. She fudged her answer on the query about suspending her pension if she is elected. It's 'Yes' or 'No.'

2. Equally, she was not pushed on the issue of water charges, nor on her voting record at Sligo County Council.

3. She was not asked -- as a leading independent candidate -- who would she vote for as Taoiseach in three weeks time.

Sinn Fein's Chris MacManus will be surprised on looking back how he missed speaking directly to the stage microphone.

In Tandem

An obvious observation last night was, of the nine candidates, no two seemed to be working in tandem on ANY issue.

Finnbar Filan did have a vision on quite a few issues. He is a good speaker with interesting opinions and ideas.

Bar himself, the answers by most on health appalled me.

How many times will politicians have to be told that the PATIENT comes before staff in planning.

No panellist last night made mention of the repeated under-funding of hospitals locally, nor of the failures to meet HIQA targets. Why?

Two first timers to the hustings, Leslie O'Hora and Bernard Sweeney, did reasonably well.

The audience input promised more than it delivered last night; no fault of the promoters or the querists.

Martin Ford asked about the failure to increase invalidity pensions since, he said, 2008.

Undocumented Irish

He also raised the topic which floored Fianna Fáil's hopeful Paddy O'Rourke on the Vincent Browne TV3 broadcast from Sligo.

Namely, politicians junkets abroad on St Patrick's Day rather than staying at home in their own place.

There was no rush to the ramparts by any of the nine on the platform to agree with Martin, on either topic.

Mick McMahon from Donegal once again flew the flag for the lack of rights for undocumented Irish in the United States.

Gary Smylie, who pulled out of the election race, insisted (rightly) on being labelled as ''a citizen of Sligo,'' in preference to any party tag.

Earlier Seamus Kilgallon lobbed a tame query at the panel with no fizz factor.

The long-time credit union man might have framed a good query on, say, the banks and the bailout and the (non) burning of the bond holders.

Lots were burned all right these past five years by banks; that is the elephant all over Election 2016.

One wondered if the clearly-heard crashing of crockery late on in last night's webcast was the elephant sneaking away, again.


Sligo Today Video Interviews

See the 1st in a series of 5 episodes of Sligo Today
video interviews with GE candidates HERE