Irish Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore failed to secure the comprehensive victory in the first televised leaders' debate that would ignite his party's 2011 general election campaign in the Republic.
But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin took several hits last night on his record in government over the past 15 years.
The Labour leader went head-to-head with his new Fianna Fail opponent, while Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny snubbed the debate.
Mr Martin frequently went on the attack — despite his own record as a minister in government, which Mr Gilmore highlighted.
The new Fianna Fail leader made the stronger start once the TV3 debate exchanges got going, continually hitting Mr Gilmore on his party's policies accusing him of “chopping and changing”.
Mr Gilmore, whereas, was reserved in his approach to the |debate.
His best moment came when he sucker-punched Mr Martin on the setting up of the Health Service Executive (HSE). “You did |more reports than you did reforming. It is now time for action,” he said.
Mr Gilmore continually and deliberately described Mr Martin as “minister”, even though he knows the Fianna Fail leader resigned from the cabinet last month.
Mr Gilmore finally went on the attack at the end of the debate and said Mr Martin had a “hard neck”.
He asked if he realised that people were going to have to emigrate, and accused him of being “out of touch”.