Tuesday 25 July 2017

This touchy-feely presidency is a right pain in the Aras

There's a multitude of potential presidential hopefuls out there, but Eamon Delaney yearns for a low-key contender

It's a bit like the Christmas shopping season, the presidency: the whole business seems to start earlier every time. The contest is not until next year but already the prospective candidates are putting up the tinsel and ordering the holly.

Among the names being bandied about are Fergus Finlay and Michael D Higgins for Labour, Brian Crowley MEP and Senator Mary White for Fianna Fail, Mairead McGuiness for Fine Gael and David Norris as an independent. There was talk of Bertie Ahern, but his reputation has taken such a battering (much of it undeserved) since the economy's downturn and tribunal revelations, it is hard to see him being a serious contender. One bookie has a list of odds which includes Michael McDowell at a respectable 40/1 and Shane McGowan at 500 to 1. On a more serious note, it is quite possible that a strong personality will emerge from outside the party political system, the way Mary McAleese or Mary Robinson did. Both of these presented themselves as 'outsiders' although of course they were nominally wearing party colours, quickly discarded once elected, and they were always savvy to the realities of the political game. Both had stood for elected office in an earlier period.

The most surprising development must be Fergus Finlay throwing his well-thumbed hat into the ring as the Labour choice given that Michael D Higgins had already expressed an interest. Neither has made any thrusting commitment, of course, but have merely "indicated that they would consider a candidacy if invited". How noble of them. The reality is that Micheal D Higgins is very keen and has been for some time. Once a high-profile arts minister, his radicalism has mellowed and he would be a 'stimulating' choice, let us say. But he could be almost guaranteed to clash with the government of the day, this being the occupational hazard of our new full-blooded presidency.

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