Friday 2 December 2016

So it's President Huggable Higgins after all -- we can all go home now

Published 29/10/2011 | 05:00

IT was over almost before it began. The countrywide counts had only started at 9am but by 10.22am, Sinn Fein's Danny Morrison was telling Pat Kenny "Yes, it's President Higgins -- we can all go home now."

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"I'd love to go home now," was the mournful response of Fergus Finlay, the man who Labour had spurned in favour of Michael D, and he wryly alluded to that humiliation by remarking: "At least I carry the distinction of being the first person Michael D beat in this election."

Unsuccessful presidential rival David Norris was much more gracious when interviewed in the RDS. Offering his "love and congratulations" to the poll-topper, he declared himself "very happy to be an Irishman under the presidency of Michael D Higgins" and pronounced it "a good day for Ireland". Say what you like about David, but he's got style.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was also "really happy" for Michael D, telling Sean O'Rourke on the lunchtime news that both the presidential result and the likely outcome of the Dublin west by-election marked "a good day for the Labour party".

Not such a good day, though, for his coalition partners. "A bad day for Fine Gael," Transport Minister Leo Varadkar conceded to Sean O'Rourke regarding the low vote for party candidate Gay Mitchell.

Earlier, Pat Kenny had mused on Mitchell's lacklustre showing, noting that he lacked the "huggability" factor so crucial to presidential success, though later in the day Minister of State Brian Hayes refused to accept that plain truth, stoutly protesting to Bryan Dobson that "Gay deserved to do better" and denying, against all the evidence, that Fine Gael had bungled the whole thing by choosing the wrong candidate.

So what was the problem then? "We were just unfortunate in that I don't think we got traction," Brian inscrutably declared.

For the truth about Gay's campaign, you were better off listening to yesterday's 'Liveline', in which a comic impersonating Michael Noonan said: "He's magic, Joe -- he made the Fine Gael vote disappear."

A bad day was also being had by former presidential front-runner Sean Gallagher, though at least his spokespeople weren't doing a Brian Hayes about it. Campaigner Jack Murray confessed to Bryan Dobson that although the Gallagher camp had been warned of an "ambush" on Monday night's edition of the 'The Frontline', his candidate lacked the "savvy" to deal with it. "He got a bit rattled," Jack admitted.

And what about Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, the man who had scuppered Gallagher's chances? Shouldn't Labour be thanking him, O'Rourke asked Eamon Gilmore.

Eamon, however, declined to do so, though he revealed that when polls had shown Gallagher in the lead, a Labour think-tank met last Sunday to devise a "strategy" that would close the gap. His interviewer neglected to ask him what this strategy entailed, though it clearly involved Michael D sounding even more saintly than is his usual wont.

And concerning Martin himself, the best comment came during a series of street interviews in Galway that featured on 'Morning Ireland'. Asked who she had voted for, a woman worriedly inquired "We're not on camera, are we?" and, when assured that there were no cameras present, whispered into the microphone "Well, then, Martin McGuinness."

Irish Independent

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