Presidential Race Has Become a Sham
You could blame Trump. But it’s really Dana’s fault. She was the first genuine ‘celebrity’ politician to run for President of Ireland in 2011. Now she has sparked a trend.
It appears, in 2018, one of the only requirements needed to announce a presidential bid is to have had your 15 seconds of fame.
Let’s get one thing on the record — democratising the race to become president of Ireland is a good thing. Of the past 13 elections for president in the Republic of Ireland, on six occasions only one candidate was nominated. That is not acceptable for an office that is meant to represent not only the government, but also, and more importantly, the people of Ireland.
Now that the election process appears to be open to all-comers, there should be some qualifying characteristics deemed essential for running for office. These should preferably include: some record of service to the State or for the greater good; personal characteristics, such as dignity and modesty; and the ability to check one’s ego and be statesman-like. Note that celebrity is not among these characteristics, which appears to be oblivious to the horde of “celebrity” b-listers at present jockeying to become Ireland’s first citizen.
In the mix so far we have three ‘Dragons Den’ business men (Gavin Duffy, Peter Casey and Sean Gallagher), an entertainer (Sarah Louise Mulligan), a journalist (Gemma O’Doherty), an artist (Kevin Sharkey), a councillor (Mannix Flynn) and a musician (James Smyth). One would seriously have to question their presidential credentials while Councillor Mannix Flynn described the current process as ‘’like watching a child climb up to the roof and take a tumble’’.
Joining them are — Patrick Feeney (a retired Aer Lingus employee), John Groarke (a farmer) and Marie Goretti Moylan (a volunteer).
With this line up, it should be of little surprise that the bookies have installed President Higgins as the firm favourite to retain his position.
Although I have no professional involvement with any of them, I believe there is one stand out candidate that possesses a notable track record.
At this point, Senator Joan Freeman ticks a lot of boxes. She set up the mental health charity Pieta House and also donated the entirety of her €65,000 senator’s salary in 2016 to the organisation she founded.
But Senator Freeman appears the exception when it comes to credible candidates. And with whispers that even more will join the campaign trail to add to this motley crew of presidential wannabes, it could add to the feeling this whole election is becoming an undignified ego-fest that devalues the office of President.
The job of President is to have no ego, to be presidential and to represent each and every one of us on a daily basis. However, it would appear the vast majority of the current bunch of candidates are using their campaigns more as self-serving publicity stunts to boost their profiles.
The office of the President of Ireland deserves more respect than simply becoming a substandard reality TV show.