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Race for the Áras: So, who are these president Dragons and do we care?

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Lining up for top job: Stars of ‘Dragons’ Den’ Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy have thrown their hats into the ring for the presidential election next month. Photo: Paul Sharp

Lining up for top job: Stars of ‘Dragons’ Den’ Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy have thrown their hats into the ring for the presidential election next month. Photo: Paul Sharp

Lining up for top job: Stars of ‘Dragons’ Den’ Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy have thrown their hats into the ring for the presidential election next month. Photo: Paul Sharp

Let's call it the week of 'Enter the Dragons'. Three panellists from a well-known television programme, 'Dragons' Den', pushed their case to become the nation's first citizen, chief overseas ambassador, and guardian of our law-making process.

Time there was when regular outings at Croke Park in the county GAA colours were a help to climbing that political greasy pole. Now appearing on the television in so-called reality shows seems to be the modern equivalent.

So, who are these so-called Dragons? And what has "dragonning" got to do with being Uachtarán na hÉireann - any more than playing a star game at right corner back for the county had to do with being a Teachta Dála?

Maybe, after a week of rather ropey auld guff from the trio of dragons, we could also ask do we really care? But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

The Irish version of 'Dragons' Den' began life back in 2009 and the sad part is that it has run for several seasons since then. The idea originated in Japan and it has been franchised out with success in several countries, notably Canada and Britain.

Business people, or those who hope to set up a business, come to the television show and pitch their "big idea" in hopes of winning finance from a panel of dragons. It's a kind of hare coursing for the business-minded among us.

But it is remarkable that three would-be politicians should come from this particular show. Even odder that all three should want to hold the least powerful and most symbolic of all our political offices.

We briefly think why not somebody from 'Fair City' or the 'Afternoon Show'? Then we abandon such deep musings in favour of ironing one or other of our legs.

 

The first Dragon out of the traps on July 29 last was Gavin Duffy, a journalist-turned public relations man, who comes from Louth, or is that Meath, or maybe even Kildare. Taking a leaf from Charlie Haughey's "man of many counties manual", this Dragon is linked to all three counties.

Born in Kildare, he grew up in Drogheda, now he lives in Meath - and we'll surely have more county links before this one is out. Still, being "of" three counties might help winning the four necessary city or county council nominations to appear on that ballot paper when voters go to the polls on October 26 next.

"I will run the most modern, dynamic, interactive election campaign possible," he pledged as he entered the fray. We'll let the voters be the judge of that one come the last Friday in October.

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The other two Dragons landed upon us this week. But Seán Gallagher's appearance was well trailed and he was the surprise runner-up last time out.

Already critics are reasonably asking, in anticipation of his concerned messages about Irish society, why he denied us this valuable advice over the intervening seven years.

True, Mr Gallagher appeared to be within touching distance of Áras an Uachtaráin in October 2011. Then a controversial bogus tweet was carried on a live televised debate. He has since settled a court action with RTÉ arising from this. Barring the pursuit of a legal case, it is reasonable to ask where he has been since.

"Ireland is changing and the next President needs to provide a fresh approach at this important juncture for Ireland," he said as he announced his second try.

Some of us will await his message on how Ireland has changed, and how he would recast the presidency. Others may say: "Wake me when he's finished."

And so to Dragon number three: Peter Casey, a Derry-born businessman who lives in the USA, but has a home in Donegal.

He came out swinging for this one, telling this newspaper that President Higgins had merely "kept the seat warm" over seven years, which deemed him unsuitable for another seven-year term. Even critics of the outgoing President will find that a bit rich, though he is on better ground when castigating President Higgins's praise for totalitarian tyrants in Cuba and Venezuela.

But somebody should remind Mr Casey that his appeal to the diaspora is well worn out by others.

Let's close with a small warning from recent history. Sporting prowess helped many political careers across many counties and parties. Jack Lynch, Henry Kenny and Dan Spring are among a host of "Dáil Stars" past.

But the field is littered with political "also rans" who had been national sporting household names. Try Kerry football legend Mick O'Connell, Tipperary super-hurler John Doyle, and Dublin five-times All Star goalkeeper John O'Leary among the many examples.

Television notoriety, and celebrity culture, could prove equally unproductive.


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