RTÉ and Facebook live politics debate generates more light than heat
Clear differences emerge between parties on the issues of abortion and corporation tax
The top issue being discussed by Facebook users was the economy, followed by health and infrastructure
Politicians who participated in the RTÉ 2 Election special at Facebook’s offices in Dublin on Sunday night generally welcomed the non-confrontational nature of the debate.
The format of the debate, presented by Keelin Shanley, was unusual whereby political representatives were dotted among members of the audience rather than on a stage or placed alongside each other.
While each of the seven panellists offered different viewpoints on issues, there was none of the clashes and interruptions that has characterised the two leaders debates so far.
Members of the audience were invited to raise specific issues with the panel. The format lent itself to a more low-key debate, focused on the issues, without the verbal sparring that has been evident in other debates.
There were clear differences between parties on the issues of abortion and corporation tax. In the latter Green Party leader Eamon Ryan claimed that the company which hosted the debate, Facebook, was not paying proper tax in the UK.
He argued for better rules to ensure companies like Facebook, Google and Apple paid the full rate. Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government had sided with the corporations rather than the EU on this issues. Adrienne Wallace of People Before Profit said corporation tax should be increased to 15 per cent.
“Ireland is making a fool of itself by not stamping down on corporation tax,” she said.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley both defended the corporation tax regime in Ireland. Mr Dooley contended the corporations created thousands of jobs in Ireland and said the income tax paid by those employees must also be considered.
“The fact of the matter is they employ a hell of a lot of people. We forget the impact of the taxes they pay.”
The first contributor, Cath, spoke of her brother who had had difficulty accessing mental health services and had died as a result of suicide.
She spoke of a variety of issues and the family’s sense of powerlessness when they were excluded from intervening ion behalf of on grounds of patient confidentiality even though her brother was delusional and seeing dragons.
In muted responses, there was general agreement from all seven political candidates that there were deficiencies in the mental health services.
On the issue of abortion and the eighth amendment to the Constitution, Independent candidate Senator Averill Power said it was not a black and white issue but she would support the repeal of the amendment for circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality, rape and incest.
“There are situations that none of us should judge, she said. “Let’s be honest. If a parent discover their 14-year-old daughter was pregnant as a result of rape even if you were against abortion, that would change your (perspective).
“We need to be honest,” she said saying that the debate needed to be brought beyond the theory. She said abortions did exist for Irish people but they were being carried out abroad. She said only people who were poor or were migrants were not in a position to travel.
Mr Dooley said Fianna Fail had made no manifesto commitment as there were divided views within the party. He said the party had suggested a judge-led decision to examine the eighth amendment.
Elizabeth Linder of Facebook said that there had been five million interactions on the platform on the general election and the volume of activity had tripled in the last month.
The top issue being discussed by Facebook users was the economy, followed by health and infrastructuree.