Thursday 21 March 2019

Kevin Myers: Send her victorious: long let us live under the reign of McAleese

LET the presidential farce now be brought to a dignified and decent end, with a simple solution.

Let Martin McAleese be nominated by Fianna Fail as its official candidate, though with the very clear and declared understanding that it is Mary who is to be the real candidate.

He can continue his new career as senator and as chancellor of Dublin City University, and she can continue at the Aras, doing what she does best.

The presidency is an elective constitutional monarchy, with largely the same powers and duties as those borne by Elizabeth II. Now, little or no corruption of authority results from someone holding on to such an office with so little power for a long time.

It is not like the presidency of the USA, where the temptation towards corruption is very real, simply because the power is so huge.

President Franklin D Roosevelt was the last US president whose duration came close to matching the presidency of Mary McAleese. Many – perhaps most – people are inclined to regard him as a model president, a figure of kindly wisdom.

I regard him as a nearmegalomaniac. He might have been well-suited for war – hardly a compliment – but it was better for the US that he died when he did.

So centralised was power under him that not even his vice-president knew about either Project Manhattan, to create the atomic bomb, or Operation Venona, the discovery of the wholesale penetration of the US government by communist agents, one of them even a close adviser to Vice-President Truman himself.

Roosevelt was the very exemplar of why no US president should be allowed more than two terms.

But Mary McAleese has already served a year longer than he did. And look at the result. She has not – to my knowledge anyway – started an atom-bomb project in the Bog of Allen.

Nor has she concealed a communist conspiracy against the State – she clearly had not been informed that, when she honoured former members of the International Brigade from the Spanish civil war, one of them, the British trade unionist Jack Jones, had in fact been an active NKVD/KGB agent for much of his life.

A mere oversight, for which someone in the Department of Foreign Affairs should have had their knuckles rapped.

Anyway, that’s by the by, whatever that expression might mean. Ireland is a happier and a more serene place with her as head of state. She rarely puts a foot wrong: once in Poland, six years ago, and once in Ardoyne some time before that.

But that’s pretty good going, for someone who is making a speech almost every day of her life, and visiting fresh groups of people, to whom she must seem bright and vivacious and interesting, and always is.

She clearly has the right genetic mix for the job – as does her friend, and fellow monarch on this island, Elizabeth Windsor. Now look: the queen has been doing the job for 60 years next February 8, and if anything is better now than at any time since the old king died.

Frankly, I dread the idea of her son – a cheery old card, to be sure, but not a patch on his mother – trying to do what she does so well. That she and the President are such friends really says it all; they naturally understand the limits of their powers and duties, and both have an unfeigned and natural interest in others.

These are such rare qualities that we should cherish them whenever we find them, and at any level: to have them embodied simultaneously by the two heads of state for the island of Ireland is a remarkable piece of good fortune.

It is mad – MAD – to have such a stroke of great luck and abandon it unless there were a pressing need to do so. There is no such pressing need; quite the reverse.

What we need is stability and civility and harmony and wisdom at the top; these are precisely the qualities that for 14 years Mary McAleese has brought to the Aras, and in a long goods-train that is still running.

If she, in the guise of Martin, were to spend another seven years in the Aras, it would take her reign – yes, let us use the word – to 21 years.

Excuse me, but that is no time at all: it is the equivalent of 1973 for the queen, with the best decades still to come. NOW, it is possible that the McAleeses are tired of life in the Park, in which case, thanks very much: and now, God speed, farewell and fair sailing unto your next haven.

But if they do not want to go, well then, do we not want them to stay? How could we possibly gain from a presidential election that can only result in a president who must live in the long shadow that Mary McAleese has left?

The simplest solution is to embrace the McAleesian Era frankly and wholeheartedly using Martin as proxy. And then, in 14 years’ time, it will be Emma’s turn. . .

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