Candidates in presidency debate

Wed, Oct 12, 2011, 01:00

The seven candidates for the presidential election are taking part in a live televised debate on RTÉ television.

The 70-minute debate is being chaired by journalist Miriam O'Callaghan.

In the first question, the candidates were asked to explain which powers of the Presidency they considered most important.

Independent candidate Sean Gallagher said the "hard powers" were the Constitutional powers of the president. But he believed the real power of the office was the discretionary power to set "themes". He said the only time he would refuse to dissolve the Dáil is in a time of crisis.

Independent Mary Davis cited Article 26 of the Constitution, which gives the President the power to refer legislation, as the greatest power held by the president.

Sinn Féin's candidate Martin McGuinness said the Supreme Court made the ultimate decision in a dispute between the President and the government.

Labour's Michael D Higgins said there was "room for confusion" about the powers of the President and that the government could always redraft any legislation that was ruled against.

Independent candidate David Norris said he believed “being the voice of the people” was the greatest power.

Dana Rosemary Scallon, also an independent, said she believed the most important power of the presidency was singularly ensuring that the Constitution was maintained by any prospective laws

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell said the single most important power the president had was the "direct mandate of the people" which gave the role "huge moral authority". He said the country was on the cusp of "massive recovery" if we could restore confidence.