McAleese's candidacy is tribal and arrogant, says Harris


Mr Eoghan Harris, the writer and media adviser who devised a strategy for Mr Derek Nally's election campaign, yesterday severely criticised the Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrat presidential candidate.

Prof Mary McAleese would make a "very dangerous and tribal President", he said, adding that she was arrogant and an unreconstructed nationalist. He said she was not so much a Sinn Fein-er as a "me fein-er".

Speaking on RTE radio, Mr Harris said Mr Nally's attacks on Prof McAleese Had been vindicated by "Gerry Adams's endorsement of her".

"Mary McAleese is clearly, as Chris McGimpsey said, an unreconstructed Northern nationalist who will drag all sorts of tribal baggage with her when she is elected President of Ireland," he said. "Nobody will be able to control Mary McAleese. She's an arrogant and she's a self-sufficient candidate who is using the Southern election to advance her career. She is not a Sinn Fein-er, she's a me fein-er."

Mr Harris said he wanted to explain why he was so opposed to Prof McAleese.

"I don't believe it's a wise thing for the Republic of Ireland at this time to elect any kind of Northern nationalist, any extreme Northern nationalist, because it sends appalling signals to unionists at a sensitive time in the peace process, and every unionist I spoke to in Northern Ireland confirmed that.

"But Mary McAleese is a particularly extreme nationalist who's got a very soft ride from the media given that she is a protegee of Charles Haughey, and given that she defends him . . .

"And I believe Bertie Ahern will really regret this . . . that he picked somebody who is basically a tribal time-bomb."

Earlier in the interview, Mr Harris explained that he had become involved in the Nally campaign when he wrote a campaign strategy.

"I wrote a three-page document called `Strategic Issues for the Presidential Campaign', which set out the fact that I believe this campaign . . . would want to return to a traditional Presidency and wouldn't be into huggywuggy, clap-happy stuff, and that Derek Nally is a man who is well poised to do well . . .

"The reason I support him is that he is a candidate who is most opposed to Mary McAleese . . . I mean, let there be no huggymuggy about it, my main reason for supporting Derek Nally is that he was the candidate likely to most point up Mary McAleese's weaknesses. I would vote for Donald Duck if they opposed Mary McAleese. I think she will make a very dangerous and tribal President."

Last night, Mr Harris said he felt he had achieved his main aim, which was to damage the McAleese candidacy. He expected that the controversy over her dealings with Sinn Fein could knock three to five points off her opinion poll rating in favour of the Fine Gael candidate, Ms Mary Banotti.