It has been a busy week in the Irish Presidential race.
I previously expressed my doubts that David Norris could get the required number of Oireachtas members or county councils in order to get on the ballot. I based this off Norris’ previous failure in both regards, and his apparent abandonment of the council route.
But things change. The “democratic deficit” argument has stuck (but only for Norris) and many TDs and Senators seem willing to get their name on the nomination papers in exchange for the good publicity. And while much of the column inches have been taken up with the steadily rising number of Oireachtas members, 18 at last check, in truth, it is the councils that we all should have been looking at. There was enough of them free to nominate Norris four times over, and free of FG interference, it was inevitable. If he had only gone to them earlier, we would have been denied this farce of the last week.
Interesting in that regard was the dispute over Limerick County Council, which Mary Davis refused to “throw back”, that is, she refused to ask them not to nominate her. This got her a fair amount of flak, and some astonishing amount of vitriol on her Facebook page, from the more extreme edge of the pro-Norris brigade. Seriously, I would look at some of those comments and begin to genuinely worry about the kind of people in the Norris camp, who are starting to resemble some sort of cult, where no criticism of the leader can be tolerated. Any who express distaste for Norris must be homophobic, against democracy, bad people.
It was all somewhat stupid, because the LCC was never going to vote for Norris anyway. As far as I am aware, he never even approached them officially, never spoke to them, before “letter-gate” or after. Davis did, and handily won their support. The LCC, like any council has the full democratic right to express its support for whatever candidate it chooses. If that choice is not David Norris, it is not undemocratic. If Limerick County Council, an elected body, decide that Norris being nominated is not in their interest, they have made a free choice to do so, on behalf of the people who elected them. The council does not exist to facilitate the loudest candidate.
Norris’ candidacy is off and…stumbling. His financial problems will start to tell shortly, as most other candidates have a head start on electioneering, posters, volunteers. Oh, and that dicey letters issue hasn’t vanished. Norris’ excuses will only convince his die-hards.
Anyway, seven are in the race, with four “lefties” (counting Mary Davis). The split of that vote will be fascinating to see, as will how much the right-wing candidates can take advantage (if at all). I doubt that a great number of percentage points will be between Norris, Higgins, McGuinness and Davis, so transfers will be all important.
McGuinness, of course, has been the other real big story of the week, and nothing that he has said, either since his nomination or in past clips that have come to light, makes me want to give him any sort of preference. He has labelled critics “West Brits”. He claims to never have had even an indirect hand in the death of anyone during the Troubles, a ridiculous statement to be believed only by the most deluded SF member. His plans to draw only the industrial wage, like the entire SF wage policy in that regard, is deeply suspect.
And he is still a former terrorist leader, who refused to meet with a neighbouring head of state only a few months ago, who defended Garda killers and presided over murder, destruction, threats, mail bombs, all as part of the most horrifically unnecessary struggle in Irish history.
It is saying something of my distaste for McGuinness that I will easily choose Norris, even Gay Mitchell, over him. They never had a hand in murdering someone at least.
And all the while Michael D. Higgins has vanished, to an extent. The frontrunner and favourite has been largely absent from TV and radio coverage. Perhaps he is just not big enough news at the moment, but I fear a concerted effort by Labour to keep him away from the visual format. The man is old, too old in my view to be President, and limiting his exposure is a very bad sign. He remains the frontrunner, but I wonder how long that will last when he is placed on a debate podium next to younger men and women.
Of course, he pulled off a bit of a coup at the end of Norris’ nomination epic, jumping in when the Senator’s nomination was fairly certain anyway to claim his share of the credit. I’m sure he had no ulterior motive whatsoever, just the interest of democracy. And transfers, which are part of democracy!
Dana is also in, and I will give her candidacy all of the time and space that it deserves.
Moving on, if Higgins has been absent, Gallagher has been worse. His name recognition must be pretty appalling at this stage, and he just simply isn’t getting enough namedrops in tv and radio. His candidacy is already being disregarded and I can foresee no scenario where he might win.
And poor Gay Mitchell. A Today FM appearance where he made a half-arsed attempt to defend the Church while trying to appear as if he was not defending them got plenty of strong reaction (I notice Ray D’Arcy, a DJ I despise with a passion, refused to read negative responses until Mitchell was no longer in studio, which I call cowardly). He simply is not electable. His numbers will not be high enough to really take advantage of the left fracture. He is a poor candidate and I despair that Fine Gael were ever dumb enough to pick him. I sincerely believe that this was FG’s best chance to win the Aras in their history, and they have blown it by picking a man who can barely bring himself to say a bad word against mother church.
And FG just don’t really seem to care.
The latest polls are out, and with the data they present, I would feel that Higgins is well on track. While I am always deeply suspicious of polling numbers, it is the transfer trends that caught my eye, since this seven-candidate race will be decided y them. Higgins and Davis have the monopoly on them, showing off a broader range of support (and I never had any doubt that Davis would be transfer friendly). Norris and McGuinness on the other hand, are not. They have that core of support, but few will give them #2s and #3s come polling day. And that’s what will get them. I expect the rabid Norris crowd will fade away after that with one last petulant shout of “the people got to decide”, but I doubt that will hide their disappointment that their idol is not so popular as they insisted he was. Perhaps if he loses despite the highest amount of first preferences, the monotonous chant will become “scrap PR-STV”.
I sense that we are looking at a transfer run-off between Higgins and Davis. She has the ability to pull ahead, and I do feel that she will perform well in the second and third preference ballot. But, right now, I do not think she will be able to catch “MDH”.
So, as of right now, my prediction:
Order of elimination: