Why the Áras 11 Campaign is working

October 5, 2011

Politics & Current Affairs

Aras 11

As something of a political nerd and newshound, I love electioneering and have nothing but admiration for those who put themselves forward for public office, whether or not I agree with their individual positions. And so far, the Race for the Áras has, without doubt, sated my inner Malcolm Tucker.

To date we’ve had the Mitchell suicide gaff where, within hours of launching suicide prevention as a “key campaign issue” there was a clear outbreak of foot-in-mouth on Newstalk, with Mitchell commenting “If anybody says to me anymore ‘Smile’ I will jump off O’Connell Bridge.” To me at least, his every right-wing utterance is managing to convince me only of Fine Gael’s abject failure in selecting a credible candidate from among the ranks. And, having started his campaign with a firm commitment to “welcome Christians into the Áras”, Grey Gay isn’t quite hitting the mark of conveying modern statesmanship.

Meanwhile, Dana appears to be on a revivalist tour, touting an “All Kinds of Everything” version of Mao’s long march, except she’s sporting Bunracht na hÉireann rather than the Little Red Book with an oddly confused/angst-ridden demeanour, seemingly oblivious to her inaccuracies regarding “ownership of our State”, “protection of our Constitution from Europe” and the role of the President.

Davis – the long-time great hope of many historically having good form on disability rights, social inclusion and citizenship issues – is yet to find traction. Of late there were some very obvious contradictions along the lines of “no, no, they weren’t all Board appointments, some were judging panels” / “I’m up to the job given my significant expertise and leadership including my role on numerous Boards”… “I’m up for the fight and well able to take care of myself” / “the dirty tricks campaign against me is unexpected and devaluing the Office”… “I’m not for the old model” / “I would like to set up conventions to listen and create President’s awards”… “I’m not in it for the money” / “Yes, I did earn €60,000 in fees last year”. Our newly-labelled Quango Queen  coming from an NGO background (possibly the most cut-throat sector there is) appears yet to learn that she simply cannot have it every which way.

You’d nearly give it to Norris for the sheer volume and enthusiasm he brings to the mix, but at every turn there’s that “letters question”. Whether or not he’ll shake it and actually get to focus on a campaign platform remains to be seen. Nonetheless, there is much to be said for the prospect of an openly-gay President.

Michael D got off the block smoothly in last night’s debate, quickly asserting his key messages and reiterating the need for “a President who can restore trust”. He certainly ticks the “credibility” box showing a consistent understanding of the role and function of our Head of State. But, add to that mix the strangely twee proposal that the country would surely benefit if every child had access to a musical instrument and I can’t quite see modern, younger, voters rowing in behind him.

Gallagher has a bit of “left field candidate” about him, frequently attempting to channel a Steve Jobs product launch of yore, rather than don a style of political decorum. He’s said no to election posters (constantly reminding citizens that for every one they pass it’s costing them €3) and refusing to be “a political candidate” despite being Fianna Fail’s man of the past.  He’s about the slogan, the bullet point don’t you know… he’s for solutions and the future; he’s not for the past.

That leaves McGuinness whose candidacy is making “us down South” face questions about the compromises of the peace process and the enduring figures it has inevitably created. Legitimately, I believe, he has faced incredulity in response to his statement that he left the IRA in 1974, and more than existential discomfort when we speaks of “protecting citizens” and “respect for the Irish State”.  What with the Chief Whip throwing a somewhat unguarded oar in over the weekend via Twitter, I think we’ve gotten a sense of what’s in store in the run-up to polling day.

For now, the winner is the process. My twitter-feed tells me I’m not alone and for the first time in 14 years we have a campaign that’s generating some debate and enthusiasm even if only fuel for schadenfreude at the water-cooler!

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About frimframworld

Total coffee fan, dedicated foodie & news hound. Strategic PR & political comms as a day job. All comments my own - blogging in a personal capacity only.

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