Jim Carroll

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On the Polls, the presidential issue

Barring a late, late entry by Vladimir Putin before noon (a man who truly loves the office of president), we now know that there will be seven lads and lasses on the ballot paper on October 27 competing for the …

Wed, Sep 28, 2011, 09:27


Barring a late, late entry by Vladimir Putin before noon (a man who truly loves the office of president), we now know that there will be seven lads and lasses on the ballot paper on October 27 competing for the honour of living in a big house in the Phoenix Park for the next seven years. It’s the election to find the next President of Ireland and the excitement is only mighty! It is, isn’t it? We’re not just imagining it, are we?

Just over a year ago, this post cheekily proposed a reality TV show to find out next Prez. Little did we know then that the drama to get nominated for the election itself would turn out to be so dramatic and soap operatic. There was David Norris’ North Great Georges Street version of Lanigan’s Ball with the stepping in and stepping out and stepping in again. The man finally crossed the line last night when Dublin City Council blessed his nomination.

That’s democracy in action for you – just as the decisions by Cork County Council and South Dublin County Council earlier in the week not to give him the nod were also examples of democracy in action. Not everyone loves ya, baby, so it’s not undemocratic when someone says no. Haters gonna hate and all of that, but these are the rules of the game. Anyway, we’ll say no more. Dude’s on the ballot paper and hurrah for that because we won’t have to put up with indignant bleating from that quarter for the next few weeks. The people will now decide once Norris answers all the questions that he has refused to answer so far (democracy also gives you the right to keep asking questions until you get an answer).

More drama? The suave council campaigns by independents Sean Gallagher and Mary Davis to get their nominations. The arrival of Martin McGuinness on the scene (who needs Putin when you have Marty, a man who has as many questions to answer about past exploits as Norris?). The last minute successful run by Dana Rosemary Scallon to get her county council ducks in a row (remember she was the one who first made use of the county council route when she competed for the Aras in 1997 so you could say you wouldn’t have Norris, Davis or Gallagher on the ballot if it were not for the Eurovision winner). The damp squib campaign so far by Gay Mitchell, a man who gives beige a bad name. The decision by former Prez champs Fianna Fail to sit this one out (the sound you can hear in the background is Dev turning in his grave). And the presidential-like bearing of Michael D Higgins (the D stands for Daniel, not Danger), who has stood aloft from the fray so far, though we are surely due a bout of high-pitched squealing from that quarter soon.

Remember the fray hasn’t really begun in earnest yet and that fray will be something to behold when it gets underway. All the candidates are joining Sean O’Rourke for a News At One prez debate today and we can expect skin and hair to fly (metaphorically speaking, of course) during this one. The campaign focus so far has been on Norris and McGuinness, but there are seven names on the ballot paper and it’s high time to do due dilegence on all of them, not just the pair who have dominated coverage to date. Yes, even Dana, Davis and Gallagher have questions to answer about why they’re running for this gig and their past. No doubt the black ops and dirty tricks’ dossiers are already prepped and we can expect the skeletons rattling in various cupboards (not so metaphorically speaking perhaps in the case of some) to come scuttling out. For some reason – maybe because it happens so rarely – Irish presidential election campaigns are dirty, sleazy affairs full of below-the-belt blows. It’s more fun than counting the attendance at Oxegen.

At this stage, it really is anyone’s game. On RTE news yesterday evening, Trinity College Dublin professor Michael Marsh was giving it to Davis or Higgins. On Morning Ireland earlier, RTE pol corr and Bruce Springsteen fan David McCullagh said it was Norris or Higgins’ election to lose. There’s two predictions and four would-be winners already.

Transfers are going to decide who gets to pocket the keys to the big gaff and every candidate is going to do their damndest to pitch themselves as transfer-friendly. That might well rule out Mitchell, Dana, Norris and McGuinness, all of whom are probably too polarising to pull in second or third preferences. Of course, it’s a different matter if the Fine Gael run proves to be as effective as it was in the February general election, but I can’t see Mitchell as the man to helm that one. While Dana, Norris and McGuinness have strong constituencies to draw from, they don’t, at this stage, appear to have enough appeal beyond these core support bases to get over the line. That leaves Higgins, Davis and Gallagher as best placed, with the latter two probably having a lot of work to do to stay in the race until the transfers start coming (after all, someone has to be eliminated first in order to put the transfers in train). But, as we said above, we need to do some due diligence on the Labour man first.

It’s going to a fabulous aul’ campaign as the Irish people decide what they want in a president. Do we really want a non-political party president? Will we forget a candidate’s colourful past and give them the nod? Will the various rabid fanbases behind individual candidates put people off? Who will be the first eejit to call this a Google+ or Twitter election, when we should know by now that social media in Ireland doesn’t really have that kind of heft? Or will we just go for the safe option and elect a third Mary in a row? We’ll come back to the campaign in the next few weeks after we put a few polls in the field and see what they produce. Let’s get ready to rumble.