SPECIALE ELEZIONI: IL DIBATTITO FINALE
A 36 ore dall’apertura delle urne, si è tenuto l’ultimo dibattito tra i leaders politici nordirlandesi
I leaders politici dell’Irlanda del Nord sparano le proprie cartucce a poche ore dalle General Election, in un dibattito televisivo trasmesso da BBC 1.
Presenti: Gerry Adams (Sinn Fein), Peter Robinson (DUP), Sir Reg Empey (UUP) e Margaret Ritchie (SDLP).
Tra i temi scottanti, la sicurezza.
Sir Reg Empey ha mosso critiche contro il leader repubblicano Gerry Adams, dopo che quest’ultimo ha affermato di appoggiare la possibile decisione del Chief Constable della PSNI di richiedere il ritorno del British Army al Nord.
Forte la presa di posizione di Adams, che ha accusato l’Ulster Unionist Party di fare il gioco dei dissidenti repubblicani.
Diametralmente opposta al sostegno del Sinn Fein al British Army, è Margaret Ritchie che esclude il ritorno dell’esercito indipendentemente da qualsiasi situazione.
Sir Reg Empey ha voluto con l’occasione ricordare la strenua opposizione esercitata dal suo partito al raggiungimento dell’accordo sui trasferimenti dei poteri di polizia e giustizia (devolution), perchè i politici avevano mancato di risolvere questioni ancora in sospeso.
Peter Robinson, attuale primo ministro nordirlandese, ha voluto sottolineare la mancata fondatezza della discussione, in quanto il chief constable della PSNI (Matt Baggott) gode di un’indipendenza operativa e in ogni caso spetterebbe solo a lui prendere una decisione a tal proposito.
I 60 minuti del Dibattito Finale
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Northern Ireland leaders debate (BBC News Northern Ireland)
On Tuesday night the second televised debate between the leaders of the four largest parties in Northern Ireland took place.
BBC Northern Ireland political editor Mark Devenport watched the leaders debate unfold on BBC1.
Some of the issues at stake in Northern Ireland’s final leaders’ debate have become familiar throughout the Westminster campaign – unionists disagreeing on the best strategy to handle a hung parliament, nationalists at loggerheads over abstentionism and electoral pacts, and all the parties debating how to navigate the economy out of the current hard times.
But some of the most trenchant exchanges focussed on a topic which for much of this campaign has taken an uncharacteristic back seat – security.
Although the politicians spent the start of the year burning the midnight oil inside Hillsborough Castle trying to resolve how and when to devolve justice, the matter hasn’t been high on the election agenda.
In general, it’s been thought to be a weak spot for the Conservatives and Unionists as the Conservatives backed the move, whilst the Ulster Unionists opposed it.
But during the debate, Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey tried to turn this opposition to his party’s advantage, linking it to the continuing dissident republican threat.
Sir Reg challenged Gerry Adams to support the chief constable if he decides he needs to bring the Army in to combat the dissidents.
The Sinn Fein president said no, accusing the Ulster Unionists of playing into the dissidents’ hands.
The SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie followed suit, ruling out Army involvement under any circumstances.
Sir Reg countered by pointing out that he had resisted pressure from presidents and prime ministers on backing the transfer of justice powers, because he worried that the politicians had not sorted out such questions in advance.
The DUP leader Peter Robinson argued that the exchanges were based on a false premise, because the chief constable had operational independence and would be the only one to make the decision.
Nevertheless the exchanges on the role of the Army were some of the feistiest of the debate.
Gerry Adams was the only politician to use a visual aid, waving around part of former SDLP MP Eddie McGrady’s expenses bill as the leaders discussed the Westminster expenses scandal.
The SDLP leader retorted with reference to Sinn Fein’s inflated rentals for London properties.
The Ulster Unionist leader called the issue of trust “the elephant in the room” but some of the discussions on this score did not get as personal as in the first local leaders’ debate.
Peter Robinson defended his employment of family members pointing out that during the Troubles others were not flocking to work for unionist politicians for security reasons.
There weren’t any clear knock-out blows.
Gerry Adams looked assured, Margaret Ritchie had improved on her rather nervous first debate performance.
On the unionist side, Peter Robinson and Sir Reg Empey are familiar figures who revisited their familiar debate about the merits of joining or remaining outside a future government.
Maybe because there are fewer floating voters in Northern Ireland, it’s hard to imagine the local debates having the same seismic impact on the campaign as those in Great Britain.
However, the times are changing and so are the issues, so the local parties know it would be foolish to take the voters for granted.