Friday 24 May 2019

Presidential pitches bordered on farcical

Sorcha Crowley

Two bewildered students from Kempten got a masterclass in Irish politics at Riverside last week.

Seven Presidential hopefuls used the tools of democracy to the fullest when they each got a 10 minute slot to persuade Sligo County Council to give them a nomination to run for the Áras.

Two Dragon's Den entrepreneurs topped the list: Derryman Peter Casey and Cavan native Sean Gallagher.

The office of President of Ireland can be used to influence around the world, said Peter Casey and he had the global contacts to make it happen. No one could dispute his Irish credentials - he was one of nine. His family won 15 All-Ireland Gold Medals between them. He was even a member of the Good Friday Peace talks (who knew?) that laid the foundation for the Good Friday Agreement.

He would galvanise the 70 million Irish diaspora and start a 'Proud to be Irish' movement with an 'Irish Birthright Programme' that would see young Irish-Americans spending a week in the Gaeltacht, a week in Northern Ireland and a week in Dublin, which would "get them exploding with Irish Pride."

It was wrong that President Michael D Higgins could nominate himself again and he's paid far too much - Peter would donate a share of his salary to some County Council or other, although funnily enough he didn't say if it would be Sligo.

Everyone wondered why Sean Gallagher had turned up, seeing as he had already secured the four local authority nominations needed to enter the race.

Sean helpfully clarified: he was not seeking further nominations and asked members to "advance other candidates" as "democracy is best served when we had the widest choice."

Why should Michael D be replaced, Fianna Fáil Cllr Tom MacSharry put to him.

The President can open doors for tourism and the food sector, replied Sean, not really answering the question.

On trade missions, Sean wants to be at those negotiating tables in Shanghai "or wherever."

Galway man Patrick Feeney is a "savvy computer-wise" "techie" who knows all a President needs to know about ground operations having worked with Aer Lingus for 20 years at Heathrow airport. In fairness, one never knows when the President might have to hop out and refuel the Lear jet himself.

What would he do as President? Tourism. It "just occurred" to him that a lot of it is from abroad."

If Patrick was President, he'd work closely with the councils. In fact he'd be calling them "all the time", he said, prompting a collective shudder.

Roscommon farmer from Tulsk, John Groarke (who does a nice side-line as Grizzly Adams) feels he's a second-class citizen because he couldn't nominate himself, unlike Michael D.

It wasn't a level playing field at all, at all - Fianna Fáil would nominate him in "minutes" if it wasn't for Sean Gallagher. And he was "too green" for Fine Gael.

Artist Kevin Sharkey regaled with tales of snorting cocaine (it was terrible) and the death penalty for thugs who terrorise older people.

The Presidency needed a change from "the usual old nags parade" and he was the man to do it. Last week. Monday he withdrew from the race.

Journalist Gemma O'Doherty arrived late and dove straight into her charm offensive: Sligo was looking "resplendent" in the sunshine but we too, were suffering from a culture of corruption and clientelism.

She was concerned about vulture funds. She despaired at the sight of the homeless. She was deeply concerned about RTE and Denis O'Brien.

Ireland is seen as a "rogue state" and why are we only offered American or British burgers at petrol stations?

The country was going down the drain because of two political parties and everyone knew it.

Dublin gal Sarah Louise Mulligan, by far the most colourful 'Oirish' character to appear since Greek marathon wrecker Fr Neil Horan told us she was a "natural leader" because her star sign was Virgo.

Adjusting her curls and pausing for dramatic effect, the "bubbly" 36-year-old actress/entrepreneur/poet would be a "voice for the voiceless" - victims of child, domestic and elder abuse, the unborn, the homeless and er, President Trump.

"Could I have a little bit of quietness please, I'm trying to deliver a speech?" she tutted to Chief Executive Ciarán Hayes, Cathaoirleach Martin Baker and the rest of the top table who were hotly debating the merits of fig rolls versus mikados.

Weren't all those issues more suited to the Dáil? Not at all. Patrick Feeney would "go back to 1966" and the days of Sean Lemass, "only better."

Grizzly Adams brought the house down when he insisted he would "do nothing as President", but take the "salary, a house and a car and a golden pension." If we wanted a President who'd do as he's told, John's your man, he said to thunderous applause.

Gemma was horrified the public weren't allow to film from the public gallery, which didn't stop her wingwoman from filming anyway (and uploading to YouTube), despite Cllr Hubert Keaney's protests.

She wasn't there to talk to the Councillors you know. She was there to "talk to the people of Sligo", which rather missed the point of her presentation. Even the hardest leftie of the Council Cllr Declan Bree ambled out for a stroll at this point.

What would they do for Rural Ireland if they were elected?

Sarah Louise, at least, was honest. "I'm a Dublin girl!" she trilled. She had tried Rural Ireland once but it sent her "round the twist." Soz, folks.

That said, she was very supportive of farmers because she did love a "big dirty steak."

Uttering one of the quotes of the campaign so far, Sarah Louise added that there was "nothing like a big meat injection." The members fell about the floor laughing.

To absolutely no one's surprise, they decided to propose Sean Gallagher and Peter Casey and will decide who will get the nod on September 24th.

Sligo Champion