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Johnny Fallon: At last ... after the phoney war, the race for the Aras gets interesting ...

ONE of the worst things you can do in any election campaign is start too early. Preparation is all important and getting ready in good time is essential but huffing and puffing for too long before people are ready to turn their attention to the election at hand does not do you any favours.

So, after long months of a quite uninspiring presidential drama, things have finally started to get interesting.

No one can argue but that the race for nominations on behalf of Dana and David Norris is quite a spectacle and very entertaining. We would of course, have been denied this was it not for Sean Gallagher and this should be remembered. Councils such as Longford and Donegal were all set to vote Gallagher, but he told them he no longer required their support as he had his nomination and this opened up the path for council’s to back other independents.

This was in stark contrast to Mary Davis who clearly does not relish the Independent or indeed the ‘female’ space becoming in any way crowded. Gallagher’s gesture has scuppered this hope however, and the electorate will have a much wider choice now.

Dana is set to get her nomination. David Norris should make it too although with a little more difficulty and this is a problem for Norris. It is easy to dismiss these councillors, but each of them know their own constituency and the difficulty Norris is having suggests that he now needs his campaign to go without a hitch.

He has been fortunate and cannot afford any more slip ups or the public may, like councillors, get a bit worried. In truth, had David Norris not resigned from the campaign at the start of summer he would probably not get a nomination now. He resigned with dignity and a few months with opponents off his back have done him the world of good.

Fine Gael has received much criticism for not assisting independents. I have always defended their stance however, it is their democratic right. At the outset, they seemed to be actively blocking Norris by voting down or delaying motions. This was not right. A change in policy has seen them abstain in local votes and this is a fairer approach and one FG should be commended for seeing sense on.

I met someone recently who wasn’t particularly well informed on politics and they expressed shock that Fianna Fail still had so many councillors around the country, as if these councillors should just have disappeared by now. All hopes for an FF revival at some stage in the future rest with its local organisations.

FF councillors have proven themselves to be fair and active in the support of other candidates when their own party is not in the race. They too are to be commended for this, while the parliamentary party may have got itself in a twist and ended up covering its ears and pretending nothing was happening, its councillors got to work making clear personal preferences based on what was on offer.

FF voters will do the same, there will be no mass abstention, they will look at what’s on offer and pick whomever they think worthy.

As things stand it looks like Dana and Norris will both make it and if they do we can hardly complain about the range of candidates that will be put before us. We have, a right wing politician and strong defender of the EU, a left wing politician and a strong critic of Western foreign policy, a CEO of a charitable organisation, a highly successful entrepreneur and community worker, a civil liberties activist and protector of urban heritage, a strong catholic voice and defender of traditional views with a strong rural appeal, a former IRA activist with much experience of negotiation and conflict and with hard left political ideals.

After all the fuss and phoney war, if this is the final ticket presented to us, then we certainly have choice and it may yet be the most intriguing election for quite some time