Candidates face off in TV3 debate

The seven candidates took part in the latest televised debate of the 2011 presidential campaign this evening, broadcast by TV3 and moderated by Vincent Browne.

The veteran journalist pulled no punches in his grilling of each Áras hopeful, while the debate also saw sparks once again fly between Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

McGuinness again faced questions about his IRA past, with Browne producing a number of books that claimed he had been a member of the IRA, long after he said he left in 1974.

Mitchell first raised the issue, saying the people had enough of the 'fairytale' being put forward.

“If you (McGuinness) say you left the IRA in 1974 and persist in saying that when you didn’t; if you say you are living on the average industrial wage when you are drawing down a couple of hundred grand – how can people have confidence in your word?” he asked.

McGuinness however once again implied that Mitchell was engaged in a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign.

“Nobody is exercised out on the street about that (McGuinness’ IRA past) at all,” he retorted.

“For some reason, the people behind Gay have decided that in order to make him relevant in the campaign he has to attack me.”

Browne also robustly challenged Senator Norris saying people are apprehensive about his refusal to publish clemency letters written on behalf of his former lover.

However the senator declined to say who have given him legal advice that prevents him from publishing the letters.

"That is an extraordinary question for you (Browne) to ask," he said.

"This is all bar-stool stuff, resurrected from the past."

Pressed to answer the question, Senator Norris told Browne: "That is one of the questions which you regularly ask, to make good television."

Meanwhile Dana said she would protect the Irish constitution from EU interference, and resist attempts to change our corporation tax rate.

And Sean Gallagher again urged the other candidates to support his bid to save the taxpayer $10m by posting their election leaflets in the same envelope.

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