The party that sought out a genius to stand in a by-election but couldn’t keep him on the pitch until game time has come up with a hare-brained proposal to meddle with the office of president.
The proposals include reducing the minimum age of candidates from 35 years to 18 years; to limit the span of a presidential term from 7 years to 5 years and to conduct presidential elections contemporaneously with local and European elections.
The age reduction suggestion is absurd. The presidency requires an incumbent who is mature, eminent, erudite, experienced in life and capable of epitomising both the legacy and aspirations of the nation. Those qualities are unlikely to be found in a super-star that has graduated from a crèche but whose formation as an adult is incomplete. A vision of a president bearing tattoos, facial studs and wearing a shell suit is unlikely to enhance the stature of the nation.
The ‘massive cost-saving’ achievable by holding presidential elections on the same day as local and European Parliament elections is illusory. There have been 12 occasions when Ireland had to decide on a candidate for president but on 6 of these there was no contest.
The presidency is perhaps the only elected office of State in this country that operates to a standard sufficiently high that incumbents for several decades have enjoyed high public approval ratings. The moral for Fine Gael is therefore ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’! Political capital is a scarce and valuable resource that must be used wisely. Fine Gael would be better off advocating the speedier arraignment of criminal bankers and ensuring that those bankers tainted with failure and incompetence are no longer venerated with political patronage as a social rehabilitation exercise.