11/10/2011

Candidates Set For Third Debate

Ireland's presidential hopefuls will go head to head later today for their third debate of the election campaign.

Today FM's The Last Word is hosting the event at the Sugar Club on Dublin's Leeson Street. Presenter Matt Cooper will chair the debate, which will be broadcast live on the station from 4.30pm.

The debate comes amidst controversy for candidates Martin McGuinness, Senator David Norris and Independent candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon.

Meanwhile Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell may use the debate as a platform to drum up support after polls saw him tumbling 12 points to 9%.

Controversy Finds McGuinness, Again

Yesterday McGuinness came face to face with a son of an Irish soldier who was killed while trying to rescue an IRA kidnap victim.

While on his election trail McGuinness was confronted over the kidnap of supermarket executive, Don Tidey, who was snatched by the IRA in 1983.

Private Patrick Kelly, 35, was one of two people shot dead by the kidnappers at Derrada Wood, in Ballinamore, County Leitrim as they tried to free Mr Tidey.

His son David Kelly called on Mr McGuinness to name those responsible.

McGuinness, who claims he left the IRA in 1974, said that he was not a member of the IRA army council during the time of the incident and denied allegations from Mr Kelly that he was not telling the truth.

The Sinn Fein candidate denied that he knew the names of the IRA members involved in the kidnapping.

Mr Kelly however called McGuinness a "liar" and demanded that the men who killed his father hand themselves in.

This fresh controversy follows a string of accusations against McGuinness over his IRA past, some from fellow candidate Fine Gael's Mr Mitchell.

On the last TV debate aired on TV3 McGuinness was stormed with allegations about his IRA past by Mitchell and the debate’s host Vincent Browne.

Mr. Mitchell attacked McGuinness over his membership to the IRA while Mr. Browne produced books that he alleged could prove that Mr. McGuinness was a member of the IRA long after 1974.

"I'm not ashamed of anything I have done," McGuinness said after the debate. "I joined the IRA when I was very young. The people of Derry were being beaten off the streets. They were being shot off the streets by the British Army…What was I to do? We fought back. Am I ashamed of that? Not on your nelly."

Mr Mitchell said: "I ask questions about Martin McGuinness because Martin has raised these questions himself. I'm talking about issues he's raising now. These are legitimate questions to raise."

Voters however have appeared turned off by Mitchell's combative attacks on rival Martin McGuinness.

Mitchell To Drum Up Support?

Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell has remained upbeat despite two separate polls revealing that his support was floundering.

The Fine Gael candidate defended his low poll ratings stating he has the most experience, energy and innovation for the post.

Meanwhile Fine Gael (FG) has assured Mr Mitchell that he has their full support.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said: "Mr Mitchell was a serious person, whose extensive experience would provide, I believe as President, very critical support to the government's focus on restoring our international reputation, but also tackling the jobs crisis."

Minister Shatter added that he believed that Mr Mitchell is a "fantastic candidate" and "an individual of enormous integrity".

US Citizenship 'No Problem', Says Dana

Criticism over independent Presidential candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon becoming a US citizen nearly 15 years ago has erupted again.

Scallon has said she never mentioned that she became a US citizen prior to the 1997 presidential election because she "didn't think it would be a problem".

In order to become a US citizen Scallon had to take an oath and denounce her allegiance to any other state.

She has however said that she has dual nationality and despite what the media is portraying she claims she is not a deceptive person.

Scallon was scandalised three years ago when her sister claimed that her husband and her brother were involved in a decision not to tell the Irish pubic that Ms Scallon had become a US citizen prior to the 1997 presidential election campaign.

Scallon however now claims that she cannot remember taking an oath in which she denounced allegiance to Ireland.

She has called the media "low ebb" to use a painful family dispute to tarnish her election campaign.

She has said that she thinks it would be an advantage for the incoming President to have close ties to the US.

Ms Scallon said: "I truly was never asked, I truly knew it wasn't a problem because a dual citizenship means you are a citizen of both countries.

Scallon has found herself at the bottom of the polls. The Red C poll placed her on 5%, a drop of one since the last poll and last in the race.

Clemency Letters Haunt Norris

Pressure has remained on Independent presidential candidate David Norris to release the unpublished clemency letters arising from the 1997 statutory rape case involving the Senator’s former Israeli partner, Ezra Nawi.

Mr Norris has continued to defend his stance against releasing the letters. However, asked in an interview on Newstalk, if the letters would ever be released, he replied: "Never say never, I just don’t know at the moment but I have to protect vulnerable people."

In the latest polls taken after the last TV debate Senator Norris polled 11% support , down from 25% in July.

Results from the same Ipso MRBI poll suggest Michael DHiggins is leading the race at 23% up five points from the previous poll taken in July.

Meanwhile independent candidate Sean Gallagher has seen a surge in support, rising seven points to 20%.

Despite criticism over his involvement with the IRA, Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness comes in a close third on 19%.

(LB/BMcC)

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