Presidential candidates in TG4 debate

Wednesday 19 October 2011 17.36
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Most of the exchanges were in English as only Michael D Higgins is fluent in Irish
Most of the exchanges were in English as only Michael D Higgins is fluent in Irish
Candidates were at the TG4 studios this morning
Candidates were at the TG4 studios this morning

The seven candidates in the Presidential election have taken part in an hour-long bilingual debate on TG4.

Seán Gallagher, Dana Rosemary Scallon, David Norris and Martin McGuiness said they would like to become fluent in the Irish language.

Asked if the national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann, was still fit for purpose, Michael D Higgins said if it was written today it would be different.

He suggested there could be a consultation process about the anthem next spring.

The debate saw a number of attacks on Mr Gallagher, who has been identified in opinion polls as the leading candidate.

When Mr Gallagher said he supported changing the national anthem to make it less militaristic, Martin McGuinness referred to him as a revisionist.

David Norris said Mr Gallagher should have done more about unemployment when he was a member of the Fianna Fáil national executive; while Michael D Higgins said the entrepreneur stood for a "speculative economy".

In response, Mr Gallagher pointed to his record of community and youth work.

Dana Rosemary Scallon said she did not regret standing, while Mary Davis insisted she regarded herself as an Independent.

Gay Mitchell stressed the need for political experience in the office.

Most of the exchanges were in English as only Michael D Higgins is fluent in Irish.

The final televised debate of the campaign is on RTÉ's The Frontline programme on Monday.