Fine Gael only have one option here.
Pat Cox is playing some crazy game, and there is no way he should be the party’s candidate for the highest office in the land, having just joined it a few weeks ago. His name recognition is his strength, but that will count for little again Michael D. Higgins or David Norris (if Norris gets nominated). He used to be a PD for Christ’s sake, why is he even in contention for Fine Gael?
Gay Mitchell, if he won the nomination, will have a car crash campaign. His right wing, religious leanings will be brought up again and again, as will his comments in this Dail debate in 1993, where he blasts the repeal of laws that criminalised homosexuality. The man is living in a different Ireland to the majority of us. The Presidency is no place for someone who puts his religious views ahead of his political responsibilities. That, and he’s already being seen as a joke, several politically minded friends of mine referring only to his somewhat amusing first name (considering his stance on homosexuality) when discussing him.
No, it has to be McGuinness, though she is hardly going to set the country on fire. Her gender may work against her, after two decades of female Presidents, and she isn’t really that well-known in the country. But, she brought in good numbers in her two MEP elections, and she’d go over better with the public then Cox or Mitchell. She has none of the major negatives that they have.
Fine Gael are in a weird spot, being the dominant party in Ireland, but not considered as favourites for the Presidency. In a straight run off with Higgins, I think they would lose. In a run-off with Norris (if he got nominated), I think they would lose. I just can’t see the scenario, right now, where they get ahead. I see no other candidate, nominated or potentially nominated, who would transfer to FG.
Time will tell.