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Memorable quotes from the Irish General Election campaign

It has been a short run-up to Saturday’s vote, but there has been plenty of talking points.


Micheal Martin, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have made some memorable remarks during the election campaign (PA)

Micheal Martin, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have made some memorable remarks during the election campaign (PA)

Micheal Martin, Leo Varadkar and Mary Lou McDonald have made some memorable remarks during the election campaign (PA)

The final day of campaigning for the General Election is under way.

It has been a short campaign, but there have been many highs and lows for the candidates.

Here, the PA news agency highlights some of the best, worst and most memorable quotes from the last 25 days.

Leo Varadkar’s attack on his rival during RTE’s Prime Time debate caused a few raised eyebrows when he said: “Putting Micheal Martin back in office would be like putting John Delaney back in charge of the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) in nine years’ time.”

Eamon Ryan critiqued his own proposals to introduce wolves into Ireland: “It was a howler.”

Mr Varadkar during RTE’s Prime Time debate: “All change isn’t change for the better – look at Brexit and Trump for example.”

There was an infamous moment when Mr Varadkar stumbled when questioned over drug use. During the first leaders’ debate, he was put on the spot by host Pat Kenny over whether he had ever taken illegal drugs.

After telling Mr Kenny he had answered the question previously, he paused for an uncomfortably long time before replying: “Yes, but that was an awful long time ago.”

Mary Lou McDonald asked Mr Martin during one debate if he was going to “mansplain” corporation tax to her, after criticising her rivals for their alleged similarities: “Spare us the pretence of a critical tension between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

Ms McDonald’s quips on her rivals became more and more common due to their popularity on social media, and at one time during the campaign she labelled Mr Varadkar, Mr Martin and Brendan Howlin: “The three horsemen of failed government.”

During the first seven-way leaders’ debate, Richard Boyd Barrett garnered the first applause of the evening when he took on vulture funds. He said: “First of all if you want to solve the housing crisis, what you don’t do is do what Fianna Fail and the Greens and then Fine Gael and Labour did, sell off 40 billion euro or more of public land through Nama to property speculators and vulture funds.”

Fianna Fail’s Jack Chambers was criticised by viewers for his reaction during Claire Byrne Live’s Climate Change debate.

He said: “You know full well that it is a broad department and I’d prefer if you asked questions on the issue we’re discussing today, because we take it very seriously, and to start with that point is disingenuous to the seriousness of the issue of online pornography for children across this country.”

Ms McDonald told RTE Prime Time that Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy would be retracting his remarks about an IRA murder victim: “The only criminals involved in this scenario are the people who so cruelly and viciously took his (Paul Quinn’s) life.

General Election Ireland 2020
Rivals Micheal Martin, left, and Leo Varadkar keep their distance during a commercial break in the final TV leaders’ debate (PA)

“I have spoken to Conor (Murphy) and he is aware that the comments he made after the murder of Paul Quinn have caused hurt and that that hurt has endured, so he apologised for those remarks, he withdraws those remarks and he will speak to Breege Quinn (Paul’s mother) and the family directly.”

Catherine Noone’s now infamous comments on her party leader Mr Varadkar’s social skills, for which she apologised.

“He’s autistic like, he’s on the spectrum, there’s no doubt about it,” she said while canvassing in her constituency.

“He’s uncomfortable socially and he doesn’t always get the in-between bits.”

Mr Martin shocked viewers when he noted: “The old provos hate the special criminal (court)”, in a jibe at Sinn Fein during a televised debate.

And finally: “There are a fair few nutters in every party, including my own,” Leo Varadkar said as he took on John Paul Phelan’s criticism of the Green Party.