Smaller parties prove popular in debate fallout

Tuesday 16 February 2016 16.16
Rural crime, the ongoing homeless crisis, and health were the topics that largely dominated the debate
Rural crime, the ongoing homeless crisis, and health were the topics that largely dominated the debate

RTÉ's Leaders' Debate involving seven party leaders has sparked a lot of reaction on online.

The general consensus was that the minority party leaders - Lucinda Creighton, Stephen Donnelly and Richard Boyd Barrett - were the strongest overall. 

Rural crime, the ongoing homeless crisis and health were the topics that largely dominated the debate.

The first question of the night was directed towards Taoiseach Enda Kenny. He was asked about how people should be expected to believe the Government, after so many promises have been broken. 

Tánaiste Joan Burton aimed an early jab at Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, saying that he was like "the emperor with no clothes".

Ms Burton and Mr Kenny appeared to group together on a number of occasions against Mr Martin. 

Renua leader Lucinda Creighton pointed out that having stepped down as a Fine Gael TD, she is the only party leader at the debate who has not broken promises.

While speaking about the homeless crisis, Mr Martin went off topic by saying that Gerry Adams had been denying his involvement with the IRA for years. Mr Adams was praised online for quickly responding: "That won't help the homeless." 

During the first half of the debate, joint-leader of the Social Democrats Stephen Donnelly was the most favoured leader online. 

At one point, moderator Claire Byrne asked Mr Adams to stop criticising other parties and instead focus on Sinn Féin's policies.

Mr Boyd Barrett was the first leader of the night to be applauded while speaking about JobBridge and the reduction in dole for those under the age of 26. 

Question three of the night was based on health. Mr Martin said he "fundamentally disagreed" with a suggestion by Claire Byrne that he had failed while minister for health. 

During the first half of the debate, the leaders of the smaller parties received the best reviews on Twitter, with Mr Donnelly mentioned the most. 

Ms Creighton spoke about Renua's policies on crime. Renua's 'three strikes' policy, along with stipulations for parents whose children commit crimes, received mixed reviews.

While on the topic of crime, Mr Boyd Barrett said he supported the idea of re-opening local Garda stations around the country. 

When asked about the possibility of a coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Mr Kenny responded  "certainly not, certainly not". Mr Martin said "this country needs a change of government". 

Ms Creighton said there was "no difference" between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and what the government needed was a "change of culture". 

Mr Adams directed more than one insult to who he called the "three amigos" - Enda Kenny, Joan Burton, and Michael Martin. 

Overall, Claire Byrne was largely praised for her performance tonight. She began the show by telling the leaders that there was a ban on political jargon.