The race for the Presidency has attracted a large number of candidates with Labour, Fine Gael and some Independents now ready to go, if they get the required nominations. This could see 3 or 4 candidates. One such would-be candidate is Irish American, Niall O Dowd, who is a native of Tipperary and assisted much in the Nineties with the peace process. Could he enhance the Irish American connections for more jobs and renewed prosperity?
The Presidency is an expensive office. Can it be run more cheaply with a new candidate and fewer staff? Senator David Norris said he would do the job for the senate salary. What about the others on this point. Surely the honour is nearly enough.
Pat Cox joining Fine Gael late in the day may not endear him to party faithful where Gay Mitchell may be more favoured. Two other candidates, Avril Doyle of Wexford and MEP Mairead McGuinness have also put their names forward. Labour’s Michael D Higgins will have many supporters but may not have enough.
With the Fine Gael whip being used in local authorities, the Independent candidates may find it hard to get enough nominations. Niall O Dowd is seeking Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein support which may help him.
The upcoming election might keep the political classes chattering but, at the end of the day, the President may do little to solve the economic crisis. Boosting national morale and pride helps. Promotional trips abroad to boost tourism and investment can bring a return also. Perhaps the role needs to be more focused in the future to meet our current needs. President McAleese did play a magnificent role in arranging the Queen’s visit and improving diplomatic ties with Northern Ireland. This should be enhanced by the new incumbent.
The bad state of Ireland is such that the country needs as many friends as possible and a strong sensible President can build on the success of President McAleese. Here in Waterford we have suffered declines. More active promotion of the country is needed to get us as back on our feet.
In the past, Presidents have been associated with charities and community groups following on the success of Mary Robinson. But times change and maybe the role should too so that we properly reflect the current climate where there is a need for some austerity but also promotion. If we are going to get a return on the spend, the Queen’s visit and publicity yielded great returns. The President also needs some legal knowledge as he/she brings legislation into statute and can refer matters to the Council of State for assessment and then onto the Supreme Court if deemed justified. This has happened in the past. A multi talented candidate is thus needed. They are not easy shoes to fill and the successor to President McAleese will certainly face a challenge.