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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: May 30, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    Enda Kenny’s campaign

    Harry McGee

    Because of the referendum, there has not been a huge amount of activity around Leinster House this week.
    There was a smattering of Government and Fianna Fail TDs knocking around this morning. The consensus was that the Yes side will prevail but there was a difference in confidence levels between parties.

    Labour TDs were decidedly more downbeat than their Fine Gael or Fianna Fail counterparts. That may be partly to do with the fact that the junior partner has been learning that Coalitions corrode from the bottom up, and has been getting far more flak on the doorsteps than Fine Gael.
    That said, the Labour people still believe that Yes will shade it but by a relatively small margin – say 54 to 46. The other two parties have been talking more in terms of a 60 to 40 split.
    My own impression? There hasn’t been a huge swing in this referendum a few weeks out as happened with recent referendums. The Yes side has had a lead which I think will be maintained. I think it will be close, but no cigar for the No side.
    The decision by Enda Kenny not to take part in any televised debate became a campaign issue. Not only would he not debate against the likes of Gerry Adams and Joe Higgins, he even refused to do a live interview with the likes of Bryan Dobson or Sean O’Rourke.
    Sure, he did a live broadcast but that was an unchallenged script. The excuse given was that he was going up and down the country to meetings. No matter how busily he attended them, he would reach only a fraction of the population. The other excuse was that he was facing down the opposition twice a week in the Dail. But leaders questions isn’t a debate. it’s a very formal and formatted session in which opposition leaders get to ask one question and then a follow-up supplemental question.
    From a tactical point of view, there might be some validity behind the decision by Kenny and his handlers. He is not the world’s greatest on detail and might find himself wrong-footed if he finds himself unable to deal with very specific questions. Besides, there is always the danger that he would have a Sean Gallagher experience, or repeat the gaffe that Richard Bruton made.
    But even in the knowledge of all that, it is extraordinary that the leader of the country was not prepared to go out there and explain to the people (through the mass medium of television, or even of radio) that he was standing up to the courage of his convictions.
    If he did not want to give validity to Gerry Adams in terms of setting him up as the “de facto” leader of the opposition, at least he could have given a live interview.
    It might have been good from a tactical point of view but in my opinion it was really really bad from the point of view of democracy, and of democratic accountability by the leader of the country,

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