Tag Archive for Mary McAleese

A man who one day may be president of Ireland, and Gay Mitchell.

Bosses don’t often give compliments, but I remember one in particular being lyrical the night before an event.

We were sitting by my desk late one night, ties loosened, going through the last details before the event started at 0800 the next morning.

“You’ve done a great job- the concept, the execution, the whole lot has been brilliant. I really appreciate that.”

“Thanks,” I said, “but we’re not there yet. One more major thing will go wrong before the curtain goes up.”

Ten minutes later, the phone rang. The keynote speaker’s mother had just died.

Michael D is probably basking in the glow of praise from his political masters at the moment, safe in the knowledge that the Aras is his for the taking.

Any hopes David Norris had of winning are receding by the day- he gambled on secrecy with the clemency letters and as always when you do that in politics, he lost.

Gay Mitchell is another man whose gamble has backfired.

The decision to administer at political punishment beating to Martin McGuinness echoes Fianna Fáil’s efforts to stop the march if Sinn Féin in the last general election.

On that occasion the Party of Dev were soundly defeated, their leader Michael Martin left looking like a petulant, argumentative and selfish child.

So too with Mitchell. The man is a skilled operator, and his bullying demolition of McGuinness’s character on the Dunphy Show would have been complete, were it not for the bravery of the host and the fact that McGuinness was sitting in the studio with him.

I’m not 100% certain that Mitchell agreed with the party tactic of going after McGuinness, and by Tuesday he was rowing back from his vitriolic position, but by then the harm had been done.

What we now know about Mitchell the candidate is that he is the youngest of nine children and he hates McGuinness with a passion. His attempts to drum up support with his “Party of the Treaty” rallying cry will come up short.

Much has been made of the fact that the Irish people are as a rule politically conservative, and that is who Mitchell is trying to appeal to, but this tends to fade somewhat in relation to the Aras.

Our last two presidents have been women, one of whom was a Labour party candidate. Mitchell would do well to note that in modern Ireland we may still be conservative, but our conservatism doesn’t stretch as far up the Liffey as the Park.

The Irish people are looking for a figurehead, not a statesman, and over the past week Mitchell hasn’t looked like either.

Davis, Gallagher and Dana are falling away, each seemingly limited and pigeonholed, all the while applying for a job that requires breadth of vision.

The reason the other four candidates have the upper hand is not because they are better; it is becasue that they have long been in the public eye as politicians, and their visions are better known to voters.

All the while, Michael D is still fighting the right election but like the death of the keynote speaker’s mother, there is still a chance for him to stumble, not least given the way the Irish media has chosen to cover the campaign.

Every day, we are faced with new “controversies” and “scandals”, and it’s worth taking a look at a few of those non-stories.

Davis earned around €400,000 over ten years on various boards- big deal, it’s about €40k a year over the period. Not exactly Celtic Tiger wages.

Norris appealed for someone to be granted citizenship – politician uses office to represent people shock! Lazy journalism, complete with the “gay lover” smear angle. It died on the news stands on Monday morning.

Mitchell is against the death penalty and wrote a letter on behalf of a pro-lifer like himself convicted of murder- now, remind me again of why we are supposed to be surprised?

McGuinness was involved in murder and intimidation- would we expect any less from a man who has admitted being in the IRA?

For years we’ve been told that Sinn Féin and the IRA are one and the same, yet some would lead us to believe that the fault is with McGuinness, not Republicanism with a big “R”. You can’t have it both ways.

No doubt there are people going through Michael D’s rubbish looking for something to spring on him, but I doubt there are any serious skeletons left to be dragged out of his closet.

Even if it doesn’t come from Michael D’s corner, there will be at least one more major twist in this election yet.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was around McGuinness, as too many powerful people cannot abide the thought of him representing them.

But as long as Michael D keeps on the straight and narrow, the prize will be his.

 

The Byrne Supremacy – no qualification for presidency

Gay Byrne- not one for everybody in the Aras...

No matter what the polls say, Gay Byrne should not be the next president of Ireland, for one very simple reason – to elect him would be to rubber-stamp a system of politics that has reduced our democracy to a simple, rigged popularity contest.

I am not suggesting for one second that he wouldn’t be a good representative for the Irish people – far from it.

A conservative gent who has been ruined not once but twice by idiots who purported to be financial experts, it could be argued that he is the perfect person to represent Ireland at this point in time.

Gay Byrne should not be elected our president because at a time when we face a deeply uncertain future, he represents the past.

In his prime, there was no other broadcaster in the world who could match him. A professional in every aspect of his being, he managed to create intimacy with his guests despite not possessing the human warmth of some of his rivals.

The fact that he put issues like sexuality on the Irish agenda for the first time through his radio and television shows is a cliché worth repeating.

But despite the great debt of gratitude we owe him, the presidency of Ireland is not a prize to be awarded for his services to broadcasting.

It is a constitutional responsibility that grows more important by the day.

At 77 it’s hardly unfair to say that his best days are behind him and, judging by his leadership of the National Road Safety Authority, anyone hoping for a political Arnold Schwarzeneger effect from Uncle Gaybo will be sorely disappointed.

Having left his morning radio show and the “Late Late”, he has quickly become an irrelevance, not least to the generation of voters who will be voting for a president for the first time.

What these voters – and Ireland – need in the Aras now is something to set us apart, both politically and in the eyes of the watching world.

Politically, we need someone independent of and untainted by the existing political mafia, a voice not indebted to the gombeens in the shebeens who were the architects of our spectacular rise and subsequent sickening fall.

If ever there was a chance to send a message to the whips and the spin doctors, this is it. No more old politics.

From our new president, we need a combination of energy, intellect and sensitivity to lead the people as we try to regain our self-confidence and re-establish ourselves.

In the eyes of the rest of the world, we need a hard-nosed and dynamic presence that can sell Ireland and the Irish to investors and students alike, someone who can fill the citizens with wonder about our green and pleasant land to the extent that they want to find out more, spending their money here in the process.

For despite the very high opinion we have of ourselves, the rest of the world barely sees us at all, and what it does see it doesn’t like at the moment – a nation famous mostly for intoxicating substances and debt.

For our recovery to gain momentum, this has to change.

David Norris could have been that presence, as he is ostensibly everything that Ireland is not.

Gay Byrne cannot be that presence, in part because he played such a role in creating the old Ireland we wish to leave behind us, and it says a lot about the devious nature of the Fianna Fáil party that they would consider asking him to run.

Following the deserved kicking they got at the last election, they know they are a beaten docket- unless of course they pull the kind of lowbrow political stroke that supporting Gaybo would represent.

His election with their support would somehow allow them to fool themselves into thinking that had been forgiven for ruining our country.

They should never be forgiven. We should never forget.

Even more amusing is the staggering lack of self-awareness shown by the reprehensible Mary Hanafin, one of the chief architects of Fianna Fail strategy who according to reports is considering making a run for the presidency.

With her party’s record in office and the state they left their country in, it is both surprising and disappointing that the bottle of whiskey and the shotgun so beloved of Vincent Brown remain as yet untouched.

Dana, Michael D Higgins and Gay Mitchell are a trio of laughable alternatives that only go to show that is no serious candidate in the race at the moment; what is so disappointing is that the calibre of those named in connection with the presidency is so low.

This is not because they don’t exist- our last two presidents have been outstanding – but because the political system and the parties that operate within it have become so consumed by the hubris of the last ten years that the political careers of any outstanding candidates were drowned at birth.

Our choice is simple.

Either we start a serious search for someone with the style and substance to represent us at home and abroad and beg that person to run, or we change the constitution and create a new TV series called “Celebrity President” and turn the whole thing into a phone vote.

Somewhere out there, there has to be a John Hume or a Gordon Wilson, or a Robinson or a McAleese who hasn’t made a phone call or written a letter to Israel, who has paid their taxes and likes the church just enough to keep the conservative Catholics onside, but not enough to let them keep on abusing children.

Somewhere out there, there has to be someone whom we can elect to say to the rest of the world, “this is who we are, and this is what we have to offer”.

Somewhere, there has to be someone with the humility and the sense of duty to do this job not for themselves, but for us.

At the moment, our efforts to find that person appear to have gotten as far as “B” in the phone book, and stopped.

It’s time to start again.

Mind you, the TV show might not be such a bad idea- having the number of some crony to call a few thousand times might keep Michael Healy Rae out of the Dáil chamber for a while…