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Craic, chat and cake at a busy Meet the Candidates event

February 29th, 2016 10:32 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

The candidates, flanked by Southern Star editor, (bottom, left) Con Downing and Noel Lawlor, Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, (bottom, right): Back row, from left: Noel Harrington, Alan Coleman, Michael McCarthy, JIm Daly, Michael Collins. Front: Fiona O'Leary; Gillian Powell, Theresa Heaney, Margare

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THERE was a great turnout for the Meet the Candidates debate, jointly hosted by The Southern Star and the Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, in the Fernhill House Hotel last Thursday night.

Ten of the eleven candidates – Green candidate Johnny O’Mahony sent his apologies – took their seats at the top of the ballroom, under the guidance of mediator, Southern Star editor Con Downing.

Con kicked off the night’s events by giving the candidates two minutes each to give a brief account of themselves, and why they felt they deserved a vote.

He then followed it up with a range of questions which each candidate was given time to answer. 

Businessman John Hosford, who has been supporting Cork Airport for many years, asked a question about securing the now troubled Cork-Boston service that was due to be launched this May, but has now been postponed.

Ger McCarthy, chairman of Clonakilty GAA asked about government funding for sporting organisations.

Catherine Beamish asked about services for those affect by autism, and Louise Kingston asked how the candidates, if elected, would support continued investment in tourism.

The Twitter feed – using the hashtag #GE16SS – was busy with comments, photos and retweets and displayed on screen in the room. Readers can review the comments made by searching under the hashtag on Twitter, at any time.

 The debate was lively and informative, and the only flashpoint was a comment made by Catholic Democrat Theresa Heaney who linked vaccines with autism –which prompted a stern rebuke from Independent candidate Fiona O’Leary who said that these alleged links were long ago dismissed by medical experts, adding that such comments were irresponsible and put children at risk.

But there were a few witty moments, too, during replies from the candidates, including Theresa Heaney’s remark – directed at the sitting TDs – that a gentleman ‘should always give up his seat for a lady’.

And Sinn Féin’s Cllr Rachel McCarthy – in reply to a comment from Deputy Jim Daly about Cork County Council – remarked that the deputy was once a member of the Council himself and ‘might be again some day, if things don’t work out’ for him!

There was some more light relief at the end of the night when a giant surprise birthday cake, donated by Scally’s of Clonakilty, made a dramatic, but late, entrance at the side of the stage – to mark a memorable birthday for the host, Mr Downing.

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