I’ll begin by saying that the Presidential debate which I attended earlier today was very enjoyable. This was despite five of the seven candidates not turning up. Four of them simply didn’t agree to come, while one dropped out at the last second to give a television interview. Interestingly enough, of the two candidates that did show up – David Norris and Michael D. Higgins – both are former university lecturers and both repeatedly stressed the need for young people to be involved in politics. There’s a point somewhere in there, I think.
Due to the drought in candidates, the format of the meeting wound up being more akin to a presentation and exploration of ideas than a formal debate. This, in my opinion, was a welcome change from the media driven debates – read: scandal driven – that have taken place over the last few weeks. It also allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere, which I felt reflected well on both candidates.
Since Norris and Higgins are both liberals – and proud of it too, according to Norris, who lambasted the media for trying to turn it into a dirty word – there was substantial agreement on most issues. There were, of course, differences. Norris, being a social campaigner, focused more on social issues. He highlighted his success in bringing about the introduction of significant child abuse laws in the early 1990s, which placed the well-being of the child above every other consideration, and his more recent efforts to have same-sex – that’s the popular term over here – marriage legalised, resulting in the passing of a civil partnership bill.
Higgins, instead, focused more on the economic side of the issues. He attacked the Austrian economic model – by name: something which is rarely done – and it’s insistence on unregulated or lightly regulated financial systems. He pointed out that this model allows for people to be irrational, but insists that the market is always rational, which, as he said, leads to a ludicrous contradiction. Something which I agree with wholeheartedly. He ended this line of discussion by underlining the fact that we know that many of the problems today emanate from Austrian Economics and that this is being ignored by ideologues, which is exacerbating the problems and making them harder to solve.
Closer to many Planeteers , America featured rather prominently throughout the debate. When Higgins was speaking about the economics of the current financial crisis he mentioned the repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act as an example of the deregulation which ultimately created the current crisis. When speaking of the vilification of the word “liberal”, Norris mentioned that the Democrats in the United States have become afraid of identifying themselves as liberal and that such cowering is what leads to people like George W. Bush being elected, culminating in war and financial crisis.
Closer to home, both candidates denounced the bailing out of non-systemic banks such as Anglo-Irish. Norris also told the audience to see through the myth that Germany is bailing out Ireland to the reality that Ireland is bailing out German banks.
There were also one or two questions raised regarding the constitutional powers of the President and other such matters, but I won’t get into them here.
Well, I was hoping to have more to talk to you about regarding this debate, but with two candidates showing up only so much can be said. I will, however, be posting an article or two before the election on the 27 October. If you’re interested, then I hope that you’ll read them.