Bonfire of the Presidential Inanities
Deaglán de Bréadún
That was the week that was! The last days before close of nominations were a mad scramble for Norris and Dana. Your humble blogging scribe was present at South Dublin County Council in Tallaght when Fine Gael and some Labour people voted down the Norris bid.
Afterwards, the FG people disappeared into the evening mist but some of the no-voting Labour councillors were still there and, to their credit, tried to explain why they had taken that particular course of action.
Their explanations were somewhat lacking in clarity, it has to be said. In any case, it was all becoming embarrassing – Labour has a strong record on issues like gay rights and, indeed, citizen’s rights and the idea of keeping a popular candidate like Norris off the ticket ran contrary to that.
Michael D. stepped-in and met the Labour members of Dublin City Council to plead, in effect, not to put a blot on his liberal escutcheon. We shall never know exactly how the Labour people would have voted without the Michael D intervention. Maybe Higgins need not have bothered but, whatever the original intentions of the Labourites, Norris got through in some style.
Had Norris been kept off the ticket, would it have benefited Michael D? Probably not. He is likely to need Norris transfers to get elected. Now he has guaranteed a virtual 100% transfer from the Trinity Senator.
Anyway, knowing Michael D and his record, it would have stuck in his throat if his party had kept Norris out of the race. For once, conviction and political advantage ran in parallel – would that it were ever thus!
There was an extraordinary atmosphere in City Hall after the Norris vote. Conservative Catholic Ireland, land of historical censorship and valley of the squinting windows, was allowing an openly gay man to run for President.
The building is full of ghosts, one of whom, Daniel O’Connell, was eloquently invoked by the candidate. Personally, I kept thinking of Michael Collins lying in state. Mind you, some of City Hall’s denizens greeted the “meeja” with the same wonderment as if they were three-headed Martians from outer space: they don’t see too many journos in that estimable establishment it seems, which is a great pity.
Earlier in the day, I had been at Offaly County Council as it voted to give Dana her fourth and final nomination. Fine Gael said no again – this may turn out to be unwise. In politics, it is always good to have a reputation for generosity. Mary Davis hoarding council nominiations seems to be backfiring on her, for example.
Then it was on to RTE for the first debate. By this stage, the candidates were firmly in cliché mode. If I hear some of those inanities too often, I shall lose the will to live. Sean O’Rourke was in great form as interviewer/chairman, which livened up what could otherwise have been a rather dull hour.
Pressing Norris to release the letters was the main story for the rest of the week, with Martin McGuinness’s IRA past coming a close second. Norris appears to be standing firm but don’t rule out someone in the “meeja” getting hold of one or more items from the correspondence between now and Election Day.
Despite the sterling efforts of Ryan Tubridy, the candidates frequently lapsed into cliché in the Late Late debate. In truth, it was more of a group interview. How do you stage a debate with seven people when there is no motion other than the unspoken: “That I would be the best of the available candidates for Uachtarán”?
Meanwhile, FG has gone into attack mode vis-a-vis McGuinness including a ‘killer tweet’ from Wexford’s Paul Kehoe. It would be deeply embarrassing for the party if it came second to Sinn Fein on October 27th. This is the first time, really, that we have seen FG and SF head-to-head. Up to now it has been more a case of FF versus SF, except of course for the Dail exchanges between Enda K and Gerry A. FG also objectively needs to attack Higgins but that will be difficult because of the need to preserve government solidarity.
All candidates need to be careful in attacking one another. Remember how Pee Flynn’s diatribe against Mary Robinson blew up in Fianna Fail’s face?