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Gaybo's teaser has turned the Presidential bid into a real joke

What exactly is Gay Byrne playing at? Does he really think he can make a late, late bid for the presidency of Ireland?

Or is he just pulling the nation's leg, soaking up the flattery and gaining some publicity for his current television show in the process?

If Gaybo really is laughing up his sleeve at the whole thing, he's not exactly the only one.

With so many two-bit celebrities and political has-beens now being bandied about as potential candidates, this race for the Aras is in serious danger of descending into farce.



Kamikaze

At this rate, the public will soon be nostalgic for the good old days when presidential elections were so low-key you'd barely even notice them.

Before the current Gay-mania, Dana was the latest showbiz star to flash a bit of ankle by hinting that she was interested in another run for the Park.

Over the weekend, Mary Hanafin joined the growing band of Fianna Fail no-hopers who are keen to fly the party colours in what would almost certainly be another kamikaze mission.

Back in Leinster House, Independent TD Finian McGrath is boasting that he has another three contenders up his sleeve to fill the gap left by David Norris's dramatic exit.

Meanwhile, there are persistent rumours about Micheal O Muircheartaigh, Miriam O'Callaghan and Brendan Gleeson -- and by the end of this race, virtually anyone who's ever appeared on television will have had their 15 seconds of fame.

As the field gets more and more crowded, it's important to remember one thing.

Even after the groundbreaking tenures of Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, the presidency is a purely ceremonial role devoid of any meaningful powers.

This beauty contest may be a welcome distraction from our economic woes, but it has precious little to do with the real problems facing us -- and any candidate who refuses to admit that is fooling nobody but themselves.



clamour

Gay Byrne is certainly right about one thing. The growing clamour for somebody like him to run is a clear sign of dissatisfaction with the four existing contenders. Michael D Higgins, Gay Mitchell, Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher may all be very fine people, but they have spent this campaign so far spouting meaningless guff that has signally failed to capture the public's imagination.

Higgins wants to create "a new republic", while Mitchell promise a return to the values of Christian Democracy. Gallagher says he will encourage fellow entrepreneurs and Davis "is committed to building a future that will instil confidence in ourselves".

Of course, none of the candidates are remotely interested in the huge salary, fancy living quarters and endless perks that go with occupying the highest office in the land.

Once upon a time, nobody really cared who was president of Ireland.

The position was so meaningless that on several occasions, the political parties came up with an agreed candidate and didn't even bother to consult the public.

Paddy Hillery served 14 years in the Aras without earning a single vote and devoted much of his time to earning the lowest golf handicap of any head of state in the world.

While nobody wants to turn the clock back that far, it's time for everybody in this race to get a sense of perspective.

We don't need a rock star, soap opera or even a talk show president.

We just want someone who can stand shoulder to shoulder with Barack Obama or Queen Elizabeth without embarrassing us -- and then let the Government get on with its job of actually running the country.



silly

Gay Byrne's "will I, won't I?" act may well turn out to be the ultimate silly season story.

One way or the other, it should mark the moment where everybody involved gets a grip and starts providing the serious campaign that we all deserve.

Roll it there, Collette.


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