29/09/2011

First Debate For Presidential Candidates

The race to become Ireland’s ninth president is underway with a record seven candidates vying for the job.

All seven candidates took part in the first Presidential debate of the campaign on RTÉ yesterday.

They set out their arguments as to why they should be elected Ireland's ninth President.

Senator David Norris discussed controversial letters of clemency he wrote on behalf of his former partner, who was accused of statutory rape.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has increased the pressure on Senator David Norris to publish the letters.

Mr Kenny said all candidates have "a duty to be up-front with the electorate" during the Presidential campaign.

Senator Norris wrote seven letters to various public officials in defence of his former partner accused of statutory rape of a 15-year-old boy.

Six of the letters remain unpublished and Senator Norris has said he cannot reveal their contents "for legal reasons".

Meanwhile Martin McGuinness has claimed he is "ashamed" of IRA bombings.

Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister has been subject to much debate since he announced his plans to run for Aras.

Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness said that he has put his life on the line for the peace process and that the people would judge him for his work.

McGuinness has said he felt ashamed when incidents, such as the Enniskillen bombing, were carried out in the name of Irish republicanism.

He also said the 1987 bombing, in which 11 people were killed at the Cenotaph, was "atrocious". He denied he was a senior figure in the IRA at the time.

Independent Mary Davis said she was standing on her track record on what she has achieved over 30 years involved with the Special Olympics.

Fellow Independent Seán Gallagher said he wanted to bring new confidence back into the country and deal with what he called the most relevant current issues of unemployment, emigration and lack of confidence.

Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell said he would work with the government of the day to ensure that the country takes the right direction at what he called a crucial time.

Labour's Michael D Higgins said he has the stamina and energy to serve as President and that he is running a vigorous campaign.

Independent Dana Rosemary Scallon said she took a position against the bishops in the abortion referendum because they and the public were not fully informed. She said she has always promoted the Irish people's rights.

(LB/GK)

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