Hundreds turn out in Letterkenny for Vincent Brownes Peoples Debate

photo (1)Hundreds of people from Co Donegal turned out last night for Vincent Brownes Peoples Debate.

Almost 900 people packed into the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny.

There was a panel made up of four sitting TD's, Sinn Feins Pearse Doherty and Padraig MacLochlainn, Fianna Fails Charlie McConalogue and Independent Thomas Pringle.

The TD's from Fine Gael were invited but absent. Vincent Browne acknowledged that there was a bereavement in Dinny McGinleys family and sent his condolences, while he said Minister Joe McHugh 'refused to come before his constituents for reasons he did not explain'. Although it is understood that Deputy McHugh had a prior engagement at the Donegal Sport Star Awards.

Cllr Martin Farren was also present for the Labour Party.

In what was a lively, heated and sometimes tense debate, topics such as Donegal being the most deprived county, same sex marriage, health and education and water charges were discussed.

And there was no shortage of engagement from the audience as people from community groups, political parties and the general public took part.

At one stage during the debate Vincent Browne had to intervene when Labour Cllr Martin Farren was jeered by a section of the crowd, he told those jeering that that part would be edited out.

There was also impassioned speeches by a number of members of Donegals LGBT community, as they urged people to vote 'Yes' in the Marriage Equality referendum.

And when Vincent Browne asked the audience for a show of a hands from those who'd be voting for marriage equality, he declared that 'if this crowd is anything to go by, then there is no doubt the people of Donegal will vote Yes'.

A number of other people from all around the county addressed the panel, John Jackson who was a member of Coilte spoke about the current forestry situation in the county. Gerard Kelly a fisherman from Greencastle told the panel how hard it is to make a living as a fisherman in the county. Aisling Nibbs spoke on behalf of a group of Donegal parents who regularly have to travel to the Children's Hospital in Dublin with their sick children. Eamon McDevitt who runs the Donegal to Galway cancer bus, told how he travels up and down to Galway every week, and two of his passengers on a Monday are an 89 year old woman and her 91 year old husband, and he pleaded that "these people should not have to make this journey".

A number of other Cllrs, people from anti water charges groups, local business people, members of Donegal Youth Council, people for and against marriage equality and  people from community groups also spoke on the night.

At the end of the debate Vincent Browne said that they had gone over the allocated time, and he'd have to ask TV3 for a longer slot on Wednesday night.

The Peoples Debate with Vincent Browne can be see on Wednesday night on TV3 at 10pm