Local Audiences Invited To Hear Candidates In “Frontline”-Style Events

18 February 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The election race in Cavan/Monaghan is well and truly underway now with 14 runners in the field, some wearing party jerseys, others in their own colours, and all of them trying to inspire recession-weary punters into scratching the magic number beside their name.
The hunt for one of the five coveted constituency tickets to the hallowed halls of Leinster House was gathering pace this week as doorstep canvassing stepped up a gear and the faces of 31st-Dáil hopefuls appealed from the obligatory proliferation of posters on every second pole, fence, gable and gate.
Column inches and airtime via the print and broadcast media are at a premium as the contenders jockey for position. And any mention in the national newspapers — or, better still, a chance to flash across a TV screen — is considered an added bonus, especially for candidates in oft-ignored corners of the country like Cavan/Monaghan (Ballybay-based independent John McGuirk made the most of such an opportunity when he gave a fiery performance on Vincent Browne’s hi-octane TV3 show on Monday night, following on from the party leaders’ debate on RTE’s Frontline).
Added to this time-honoured modus operandi for getting the message across is the plethora of new-fangled, digital-age communication platforms like Facebook, Twitter and a host of other “blogs”. For the contestants themselves, the tangled web of new options represents a double-edged sword (or opportunity, depending on how you look at it). The websites give everyone, candidates and public alike, a chance to monitor what’s happening and have their say, resulting in a lot of commentary that’s a good deal less refined than what might make it into a newspaper. It goes with the territory.
A fair share of the 14 runners are on either Facebook or Twitter (see below); some are on both, while others have yet to be convinced to join the cyberspace community. For some reason Twitter seems to have caught on in Cavan, where five of the candidates are signed up — but none of the Monaghan-based contestants have hopped on that particular train just yet.
Facebook users can also check “Cavan/Monaghan Election watch” to see what’s being said, while another blog, Boards.ie, is currently running a virtual version of the election in this constituency. Mind you, if the “voting” so far was reflected in the real thing, it looks like the two Sinn Féin candidates would romp home ahead of everyone else! Take from that what you will, but a more measured assessment of the campaign on the ground leaves a second Sinn Féin seat possible but far from guaranteed.
Another new facet on the hustings 2011-style is the series of public “Questions and Answers/Frontline”-type events that have been organised around the constituency, where local organisations and groups are inviting the candidates from either or both counties to come and put forward their positions before a public audience, taking questions from the floor.
Two of these are taking place in the Monaghan side of the constituency this week, starting off with a ‘Frontline’ discussion in Ballybay Wetlands Centre tonight, Thursday 17th and continuing with a ‘Monaghan The Great Debate’ event hosted by the Friends of Monaghan Harps in the Hillgrove Hotel tomorrow night, Friday.
Going head-to-head in the Wetlands’ Frontline tonight will be Margaret Conlon of Fianna Fáil, Sean Conlan and Heather Humphreys of Fine Gael, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin of Sinn Féin and John McGuirk, who is running as one of the independents seeking election under the recently formed ‘New Vision’ umbrella. Liam Hogan of Labour and independent Caroline Forde have been pencilled in as possibilities for the event, to which all candidates were invited.
Hosted by Aine Kerr of the Irish Independent, the Ballybay discussion will see the candidates invited to answer selected questions from the audience on five topics: Monaghan Hospital, Unemployment, Bank Bailout, Wage Cuts, and Emigration, with 20 minutes alloted to each issue. (Doors open at 8.30pm, admissions is €5, and the debate begins at 9pm.
The ‘Great Debate’ in the Hillgrove Hotel on Friday night will focus on candidates based in the Monaghan side of the constituency, where the host will be former County Manager Declan Nelson. It is intended that the questions will be geared towards issues affecting the future of the county, an organiser told the Northern Standard.
Those taking part will include Heather Humphreys, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Margaret Conlon, Sean Conlan, independent Seamus Treanor, John McGuirk and Darcy Lonergan the young Green Party standard bearer from Carrickmacross, and they will each be given a short time to set out their vision for Monaghan. After debating the issues with each other for an alloted time, a number of selected question from the floor will be taken.The organisers are hoping to see four to five hundred people at this event, where the admission charge of €10 will go towards the Monaghan Harps Development Fund.

Full report in The Northern Standard

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