Hot on the wheels of proposed election candidates dropping like flies, here is a blog I wrote in 2011, pre the last election to give you an appetite for this year’s contest. While doing Drivetime on RTÉ this evening, the blog of seven years ago appears to be as fresh today as it was then. As we all wonder who the drivers will be in this year’s races, here is something to reflect on.
10th August 2011:
Ever since Senator “Dick Dastardly” Norris’s campaign was shot down in flames, the Irish presidential race has descended into a farcical version of Wacky Races.
Now Dana is trying to pitch herself as Ireland’s answer to Penelope Pitstop in order to save the day, while the media is left wondering how to sex-up dull campaigns like Muttley’s (aka Sean Gallagher’s). Indeed, following the fortunes of the remaining candidates must make the public want to stick pins in their eyes, now that the colourful Norris is no longer. But the question is — will Uncle Gay save us from this comic book cartoon of an election?
The feverous coverage of the race for the Aras has been more a testament to the silly season than the candidates themselves.
With the heavyweight politicos on holidays, the Dail closed and all major decisions deferred until September, summertime in Ireland can be very quiet indeed.
After the excitement of the Galway Races, there is really very little to fill the column inches and airwaves. But the veracious appetite of the 24/7 news-cycle must still be satisfied.
So much so, the 70-minute trip of Oscar-winning movie producer Steven Spielberg to Ballyvaughan for cheesecake made all the newspapers. Well, with hard news scarce on the ground editors must have been happy enough to declare when it came to their readers — “Let them eat cake!”
Now the media is feasting itself on silly speculation and seems anxious to hype up any interest in a possible candidate. Everyday we can read lines such as “sources close to the potential candidate” and “if true” when backing the various horses they believe are on the brink of announcing their candidacy.
So keep your eyes peeled for speculation regarding RTE’s Joe Duffy, the more or less talentless Twink or even Jedward. Remember, in Whacky Races anyone can join Muttley and embark on their very own presidential bid.
But while the media vultures continue to circle, after devouring David Norris, the backers of other candidates are hedging their bets in case a skeleton or two crawls out of a closet. Indeed, rumour has it Labour has Fergus Finlay on standby just in case the wheels mysteriously fall off Michael D Higgins’ campaign.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael is playing what I would describe as a masterstroke with their candidate, allowing Gay Mitchell to enjoy his summer off in the knowledge that this is a very long race to the finish line.
But the one man who can truly afford to bide his time is Gay Byrne.
In mid-June I received a phone call suggesting Gay might consider running. However, to use his own words, “The current climate is simply a gabfest; I have no plans to run at present.”
While Newstalk’s veteran presenter George Hook believes Gay (77) is too old to run for office, Kevin Myers highlighted what wonderful ambassadors the Queen of England (85) and her 90-year-old husband Prince Philip proved to be when they recently visited our shores.
So while Dick Dastardly twirls his moustache and wonders what might have been, let’s hope by September Muttley will have given up trying to catch the pigeon and Penelope Pitstop will have seen sense. Then it will be time for Gay’s Late Late Show and a triumphant march to the Aras.
Paul Allen, Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.