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Vincent Hogan: Puck-fair politicians don't evoke irish pride

Is it just me or has the race for the Aras begun to look like a rowdy job-centre queue? There's an almost bottomless hole of people jostling for consideration, all drawn to the big white house by a desire, it seems, to help the poor and needy. And it's touching, of course. Anything that makes the skin crawl surely qualifies as "touching."

But, with so many vocations all being discovered simultaneously, it begs a question -- why not just pop down to the Samaritans and hand out a few bowls of minestrone, if life's injustices are keeping you awake at night? It will eat far less into your busy schedule of TV work, hand-shaking or whatever it is that you ordinarily do for a nice dinner.

Now, let it be said, this column is devoutly apolitical. We wouldn't know a Healy-Rae or Boyd-Barrett from a Zeta-Jones or Bonham-Carter (well, we might get lucky with a guess). In fact, the very idea of a party political dimension to the election of a President seems, to us, a tad unseemly.

But does the field really have to resemble a two-legged claiming race at Gowran Park?

If we had to choose off the list right now, it would probably be that nice Joycean chap, with the plummy voice and sharp tailor. At least, he'd look the part handing out hurleys to world figures. But it seems he's not going to make it, is he? Not now that he's getting beaten up over something odd he (reputedly) said 10 years ago.

Which, presumably, rules out just about every other politician too.

Actually, if it were in this column's gift to make a nomination, GOAL's John O'Shea would get the vote.

But then, for all the extraordinary good he does, John could turn an Amish knitting class into the West Bank.

So, a suggestion.

Scrap the system. Forget this antiquated thing of having to accumulate nominations from county and city councils or existing members of the Oireachtas.

The next President should be an inspiration, not a deposit of political consensus.

He or she should reflect a strand of Irishness that actually makes us proud.

Now that's a narrow field, admittedly. Think of the things about this country that still give you a goosebump tingle. Sure, there's always literature and music. But John Banville has never struck me as a chap who enjoys entertaining and, face it, Bono hardly needs the house.

So, it's obvious, isn't it? The next President should represent maybe the one thing that consistently interrupts the misery of living in a big, fat puddle of someone else's debt. Sport. I mean take Robbie Keane out of last Saturday night and what was your high point?

That crate of discounted Dutch Gold and the takeaway with the nutritional value of styrofoam?

If you were lucky, you needed two plates and two glasses. If not, you've been wretchedly bloated and lethargic since.

Sport, increasingly, is all that separates this country from becoming one of the most depressing places on earth.

Keane's 50th and 51st international goals came in a part of Eastern Europe long associated with Irish heartache.

Yet, the night in '99 that a chap called Goran Stavrevski put a stake through Mick McCarthy's heart, chances are half the travelling supporters were checking out the local property market before flying home. This time, they probably settled for comparing bus prices to the tram.

Face it, we've never needed the distraction of sport like we need it now and, frankly, we've never needed an inspiring President more. So, let's find one.

Who have you seen mentioned so far that would come even close to the likes of a Sean Boylan or a Liam Tuohy, an Eddie Keher or a Ronnie Delany, a Sonia O'Sullivan or a Matt Connor, a Bill McBride or a Mickey Harte standing for office?

If the ultimate symbol of Irishness we choose to give an American president and the husband of the English queen is a hurley, why not go the whole hog?

Why not embrace the idea of a nation elevated beyond the ordinary by what its sports people do.

This is, of course, wishful thinking. There's as much chance of a sports hero being elected to the Aras as there is of that nice, winking weatherman or the gardener with the Orphan Annie curls.

Which is no chance at all.

But a president should inspire a nation, not leave it heavy-eyed with ambivalence. All we've got right now is an undignified Puck Fair, everyone jostling for camera time.

I bet we end up with a pony.

Irish Independent