The first of five post-vote articles that I’m throwing up daily for the next week.
The election is done, and the Labour candidate will be inaugurated as our President in a week or so.
I’m sure Higgins will make a perfectly acceptable President. I voted for him after all. But, again, that choice was based more of a feeling of “everyone else is worse” rather then genuine enthusiasm.
His age remains an issue for me, but that has been somewhat deflected with his pledge to serve just one term. I will be…disappointed if he chooses to renege on that promise in seven years time. I have doubts that he can represent Ireland in a foreign affairs role without annoying me. I doubt he will use his role to really fight against unpopular decisions from a government that includes the Labour party.
But he is the winner.
If Higgins’s victory teaches us anything, it is that negative campaigning doesn’t work. Every other candidate has attacked or been attacked, and while it might stop someone from winning, it can’t win the election for the attacker. Mitchell and McGuinness were attackers. Gallagher, Dana Davis and Norris were attacked. Higgins didn’t attack and had nothing to really be attacked with, aside from some minor things.
The media played their part in the negative theme of the campaign, but I maintain that they were entitled to investigate backgrounds and ask uncomfortable questions. Some have commented that selective media sources seemed more friendly to Higgins then they should be, but the truth is that Higgins had the cleanest background.
And in a race that was marked by “best of a bad lot” thinking, Higgins’ lack of a major negative story was a huge boost for him. He had party backing, a major effort from supporters, the youth vote, the west vote, the Irish language vote. Too many positives to deny him the victory. The last week swing from Gallagher to him is evidence of his insane, ever-present transfer potential.
Saying all that, we should not be deluded into thinking that Higgins was always destined to win. Gallagher ran him close, and if certain questions were never asked on The Frontline, or were answered better, he could well be the next President instead of the Labour man.
But he isn’t. Higgins has some interesting (and tough) times to look forward to. The budgets will see him tested, as he signs finance bills that the people will despise. He will have to represent Ireland on trade trips that are crucial to the end of austerity. He will be the head of state during the centenary of the Easter Rising, in which he will be expected to take a leading role. He will be the Commander-in-chief of an Armed Force that needs protection in these times. He will be expected to be a figurehead that the country needs, expectations that he will struggle to meet for everyone.
I wish President Michael D. Higgins the very best of luck.