In a live television debate the Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader John Bruton and Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern set out their stalls ahead of the general election.

In June 1997 the electorate was presented with two possible coalition governments. The existing rainbow coalition of Fine Gael, Labour and the Democratic Left, or a new coalition between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats (PDs). 

John Bruton and Bertie Ahern are here to tell us why they should be the next Taoiseach and why they believe their respective coalitions should form the next government.

Two days before polling day, the leaders of both the main parties, John Bruton for Fine Gael and Bertie Ahern for Fianna Fáil, engaged in a televised debate. 

Both leaders set out their stalls in a two minute opening statement followed by a debate on their specific policies. The first section of the debate focuses on the difference between the two alternative future governments.

An Taoiseach John Bruton opens by focusing on his twenty eight years experience in politics, the changes that have taken place in the country in that time, and looks to the future to the kind of Ireland that will exist in ten years. 

I want to create an Ireland where everybody is respected, whether lone parents or married, whatever their address, whenever they left school, whatever their age, respected for what they can give.

Bertie Ahern talks about his campaign efforts throughout the country where he says he has been warmly received. He believes it is not a time to look back but to look forward to the kind of country we want into the new millennium. 

He also makes promises about reducing taxes, solving crime through a policy of zero tolerance, employment, and his commitment to the peace process.

Now I ask for your help for the cause of a strong and equal Ireland at peace with itself and striding confidently into the twenty first century.

Both leaders are of the belief that their coalition option will serve the country best over the next five years. 

Introducing the debate, moderator Miriam O'Callaghan asks

How different are the two governments on offer?

Taoiseach John Bruton argues that his government has a track record already and sets out some of their achievements to date in terms of employment. He also claims that his government represents everybody. 

Bertie Ahern, on the other hand, is confident that Fianna Fáil along with the PDs under Mary Harney, will have a cohesive future and attests to their long friendship and working relationship. His focus is on controlling public expenditure, cutting taxes, cutting crime, developing the peace process, creating jobs and maintaining economic growth.

This episode of Prime Time was broadcast on 4 June 1997. The presenter is Miriam O'Callaghan.