The Great Debate

All nine general election candidates in Roscommon/South Leitrim are set to face public scrutiny – and eachother – in unique circumstances next week when they take part in a special pre-election debate in Roscommon town on Monday night, May 14 th next.    The candidates will come together and debate the issues affecting this constituency in what looks set to be an exciting pre-election showdown.    This week there was a colourful turn of events in this constituency when controversial businessman Noel O’Gara became the ninth declared candidate in Roscommon/South Leitrim.    O’Gara, who enraged some residents with his plans for Dartmouth Square in Dublin (see interview on page 20) is a native of Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon.    Next Monday night’s election debate, which is being organised by the Roscommon People newspaper, has been described as a ‘unique event’  by the paper’s Editor, Paul Healy.    Mr. Healy said: ‘Firstly the Roscommon People is delighted to be hosting this unique event, unique in that every candidate in Roscommon/South Leitrim is expected to be present for a no-holds-barred debate about the issues affecting this constituency. The debate will be chaired by the People’s Seamus Duke, a man with vast experience of interviewing politicians through his current affairs work on local radio and particularly his hosting of election count coverage.    ‘What I really like about this concept is that the debate will give floating and undecided voters a great chance to hear the views of the various candidates on a range of issues just over a week before the election.’    Monday night’s general election debate will take place in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon. Doors open at 9 pm. All are welcome. Admission is free.  Bertie in Castlerea Embattled Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was due to visit County Roscommon on Thursday of this week to add his considerable support to Fianna Fail’s efforts to retain two Dail seats in Roscommon/South Leitrim constituency.    Mr. Ahern, who has been under the media spotlight since the campaign began in the light of controversy about his personal finances, will be hoping that the historic events in Stormont this week spark a revival in his and Fianna Fail’s fortunes.    As we go to press on Wednesday night local Fianna Fail figures confirmed that An Taoiseach was due to hold a press briefing at around 12 noon in Tully’s Hotel in Castlerea. This would be followed by a walkabout in the town.