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Sure, Gay's a legend. But he's too out-of-date and too old to be our president

AS the clamour grows daily for Gay Byrne to nominate himself as a presidential candidate, here's an unusual thought.

Has the country lost itself in a sepia-tinted, nostalgic glow, and gone stark raving mad?

Gay Byrne is a legend -- a national treasure who dragged Ireland kicking and screaming into the 20th century. A natural, brilliant broadcaster, Gay has never been equalled since and even now, at 77, can still teach other presenters a thing or two.


But those who feel that the exit of David Norris provides the opportunity for Gaybo to step into the breach are wildly off the mark. Some have sought to compare the two men -- popular, articulate, unsoiled by the stench of mainstream politics, and 'national treasures'.

Perhaps much of David Norris's appeal was the fact that as an educated man of letters, he wasn't perceived as 'your ordinary politician'. But Norris was a politician -- and a brave, campaigning one at that. Gay has interviewed plenty of politicians, but never lived the life.

David Norris, furthermore, is a scholar, teacher and cultural encyclopedia, while Gay Byrne goes to the theatre, usually on opening nights. Is it just me who sees the difference?


Gay described this weekend how honoured he felt to be a favourite in the polls. "I'm flattered, my goodness me who wouldn't be flattered? I think it's a huge compliment, of course it is highly complimentary and it's a beautiful compliment and a very heartening thing to have happened and it's wonderful and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart..." Never using one word when seven will do has always been a trademark of Gay's, but hell, the presidency only lasts for seven years.

By the time Gay had described the magnificence of Aras an Uachtarain to the first visiting dignitary, his time would be up...

Remaining coy on whether he'll put his name forward, Gay went on to say: "If someone can convince me that a mass of the people of Ireland are clamouring for Gay to be President, I would have to listen to the clamour."

Am I alone in finding this to be a tad precious, a bit "the country needs Gay, so Gay must answer the call", while also displaying that trait of those who've usually experienced nothing but adulation -- that entering a competition, they want to be sure they'll win, rather than face the shame (in their minds) of being a 'loser'?


With impeccable timing, Gay contributed a diary of his week to a Sunday newspaper, and provided watertight evidence as to why he should not run. It consisted of a lengthy description of how the East Link roundabout had been cleaned, how dirty Bondi Beach is, and a modest spot of back slapping, complete with faux-incredulity, about the viewership figures for One Night Stand.

Small, parochial subjects, likely to offend no one, but hardly 'presidential'.

And most tellingly, it concluded with one of Gaybo's home-spun "things ain't what they used to be" reflections, when he criticised the three male presidential candidates for walking ahead of Mary Davis at a photocall. "Not one of them," wrote Gay, "had the manners, courtesy of gentlemanliness (what a quaint old word)" --please, Gay, get to the point... -- "to stand back and say 'Mary, after you'."

Reflecting on this remark, he concluded "Am I getting very old and out of date?"

Gay, you just hit the nail on the head...