Well thank God that presidential election is over. The only snow white candidate, Michael D, is now the 9th president of Ireland, and he leaves behind him the 6 other hopefuls whom he dwarfed. In order of how they were ultimately ranked; There was Forgetful, who couldn’t recall any alleged brown envelopes. There was Naive, who wrongly thought that the troubles are but a distant memory to this Island. Next was Bashful, who didn’t seem to have anything worth saying all campaign, followed closely by Noisy, who had plenty to say. Then of course there was Loopy, who claimed people were out to slash her tyres. And last and –in the eyes of the voting public – least, Vanity, who seemed to spend most of her campaign money on a red dress and a makeover.
A record 7 candidates stood for election in this campaign, and yet even so this failed to impact on Michael D. Higgins gathering the highest first preference vote in Irish presidential election history. Is this testimony to a great man, or rather a damning indictment of the other six candidates? Opinion is divided on this matter.
It was certainly an entertaining campaign, if you like the Jeremy Kyle show. The constant bickering between candidates did much to lessen the importance of what is already a fairly unimportant post in the grand scheme of things. This did not feel like a weighty meeting of 7 of the finest minds in the country, ready to do battle in order to win the hearts and minds of the people. It felt rather more like at times one candidate was in one of those carnival, games where 5 of the other candidates threw stones until they hit a target and the one unfortunate enough to be seated was dunked in water. And then there was Michael D. It is said that empty vessels make most noise, and Higgins kept his nose and his image clean throughout this campaign by saying nothing.
He was only vociferous in defending his age. He feels there is no issue with him being a septuagenarian, who will emerge shakily from the Aras at the end of his term as President a full seven years after his three score and ten. And the best of luck to him too, he seems to be in good health and sound mind.
The latter being something you would have to question about certain other candidates who ran this rat race. Dana in particular perhaps. She brandished the constitution like a weapon throughout the campaign, but seemed unsure how to use it. Her Primetime Debate outburst will be the stuff of YouTube legend for years to come, as she without warning produced a statement at the end of the show where she made reference to “false allegations” being made about her family. She couldn’t divulge however what these allegations were. Finally, throughout the campaign, she showed an awful lot of contempt for Europe for someone who won the Eurovision. Some people have short memories.
Which leads us nicely onto Sean Gallagher. The comedian Karl Spain had an interesting insight to make on the Dragon’s Den entrepreneur. He said at a Galway gig on election night how interesting it was that “Martin McGuinness is able to admit freely that he has been a member of the IRA, but Sean Gallagher has to come out and say ‘Oh no! I’m not a member of Fianna Fáil!’” This highlights the standing of the last government in the eyes of the public, but interestingly this was not what killed off Gallagher. His Fianna Fáil links had faded into the background. Indeed, going into the Frontline Debate with Pat Kenny, Gallagher was miles in front in the polls. In his introduction to the debate, Kenny said to the candidates; “What happens tonight will impact on voter’s decisions.” Mystic Kenny was right. Gallagher fluffed his lines, and showed all the characteristics of a Fianna Fáil stalwart including allegedly accepting dodgy cheques. The race was over bar the shouting.
David Norris loves to shout. When he appeared in NUIG the week before the election, people complained of a ringing in their ears after he had finished giving his verdict on everything from college fees to Joyce. He is undoubtedly a vibrant character, but this may have worked against him in this campaign. His eccentricity, coupled with the allegations which followed him around his entire campaign, meant that he was never going to be Ireland’s 9th president. The Irish people are fundamentally conservative, and the idea that Norris could say anything at anytime, particularly as the figurehead and representative of Ireland abroad, was unpalatable to many.
Martin McGuinness came in third in the end, and surprised many with the support he garnered. The reason why he gained so much support probably lies in the fact that he was a prominent figure in the Northern Ireland peace process. The reason he didn’t gain anymore certainly lies in the fact that he is a former IRA man. The Irish people have long memories, and although we have moved on from the Troubles, it was folly on Sinn Féin’s part to think that McGuinness stood a healthy chance of winning this election. However the party’s profile has been raised once again in the Republic, so mission accomplished maybe?
Gay Mitchell did a great impression of John Wayne in this election. Not in so far as being stoic, brave, and a man who you’d place your trust in. Not at all. Rather, Mitchell played the role of The Quiet Man. This paragraph has 6 sentences. Mitchell himself scarcely uttered that number of worthwhile phrases all campaign.
And finally the lady in red, Mary Davis. Her finishing dead last in the polls calls to mind a football anecdote. A manager of a prominent team is giving a verbal tongue lashing to his team who have had an abysmal game. Noticing some substitutes laughing and joking in the corner, he turns his attention to them. “I don’t know what you lot are laughing at, ye weren’t even good enough to replace this worthless shower of b******s!” Mary Davis finished below Dana, and that says it all.
For anyone who is suffering withdrawal symptoms now that the campaign is over, never fear. The Jeremy Kyle Show is on every day, and surely there will soon be another series of Big Brother. For everyone else, it is time to forget about the Presidential campaign, and turn our attention to the big issue that arose from October 27th. A referendum took place to establish whether or not politicians should have the power to investigate people in the public interest. At present it looks as though the public voted no, but the very notion that politicians should feel that this is a power that they are entitled to is both galling and terrifying. It is Halloween, and it is time for the Irish public to be afraid, very afraid. Watch this space.