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Friday 9 December 2016

Candidates' true colours begin to show themselves

What do we really know now about our presidential hopefuls, from the fey poet to the reformed terrorist, that we didn't know before the campaign began in earnest?

Published 09/10/2011 | 05:00

ALL KINDS OF EVERYTHING: Our Irish presidential candidates are a disparate lot; from left to right, Gay Mitchell, David Norris, Mary Davis,
Sean Gallagher, Martin McGuinness, Dana and Michael D Higgins pictured before their 'News at One' debate
ALL KINDS OF EVERYTHING: Our Irish presidential candidates are a disparate lot; from left to right, Gay Mitchell, David Norris, Mary Davis, Sean Gallagher, Martin McGuinness, Dana and Michael D Higgins pictured before their 'News at One' debate

DAVID NORRIS: Went from being a hero, who inspired us all with his "Fail Better" speech, to being a victim. As he reeled from media assault to media assault he inevitably showed himself to be a lonely and faltering figure.

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The importance of being Norris lay in getting nominated, not necessarily elected. It would have been good to have, as President, a man of letters. Alas if he lived by letters, his hopes died by his own letters. We can be sure of one thing: he will fail even better.

MARY DAVIS

We thought we were getting a do-gooder (so good that we all felt bad). Instead we found ourselves with a professional who was doing a good job. Professionally. She seems to be a woman who approaches everything as a business. You feel it's all corporate with her. The problem with the Aras is you need a heart as well as a head.

SEAN GALLAGHER

Unlike Mary Davis, he can appeal personally to the vote of those with disability. And we're not just talking about Fianna Fail here. He has youth, a beautiful new wife, and is sophisticated in an unsophisticated way. He seems comfortable in his skin, which could be ours. He embodies Ireland post-Celtic Tiger: he seems to have retained the entrepreneurial confidence -- but not the hubris -- of the Irish Dream years. Eschewing 1916 mania takes balls. If he seems to wallow a little too much in self-help, it's probably because that's the only hope for us now that we've lost the rugby.

MICHAEL D HIGGINS

We thought we were dealing with a fey little poet, instead we find he's an ambitious and prickly little politico. He has reinvented himself, while keeping his mouth largely shut during the campaign. His Aras-ship would be an exclusive one -- if you're not an artist, a Gaelgeoir or a leftie. Carry an American citizenship and you could be off the invitation list indefinitely. We owe Dana for this one.

DANA

Where does she get the confidence? Perhaps from the fact that they're still playing her song in the new Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy film. Alas, we are not singing her song anymore in this country. Unless, of course, she really is a lightning conductor for others. All kinds of Euro-sceptics . . . remind me of you.

GAY MITCHELL

There is no justice in political life. Mitchell has done the State some service. Alas, gratitude is a very difficult emotion. Where others were content to spout off about "the future" and "positivity", Mitchell held fast to the principle that if we do not confront the mistakes of the past we are doomed to repeat them. Martin McGuinness's past had to be confronted. Mitchell may not have intended to be the sacrificial goat, but he was the catalyst for the most important part of this presidential debate. Which is that this is a Republic which offers no comfort to any ambivalence on terrorism -- past or present.

MARTIN McGUINNESS

We have learned nothing about him. Ireland's Nelson Mandela? Not quite. Mandela was a proponent of Truth and Reconciliation. McGuinness is a proponent of Reconciliation Without Truth. He can't tell the truth about anything of course because it might not tally with what else he has not told the truth about. It's a difficult position -- that of former terrorist -- and we might have had some sympathy for him. But he had a choice. He need not have run for President of the Republic.

Anne Harris

Sunday Independent

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