Micheál Martin has given Fianna Fáil councillors free rein to vote as they wish with respect to the selection of candidates to contest the Presidential election.
But such a disposition towards something as important as the next presidential election, the first in 14 years is pathetic and self-serving. The Presidency is an office that has performed so flawlessly and is so deeply esteemed that the least Fianna Fáil could have done is to set out the qualities, ideals, and characteristics that Martin believes are a prerequisite for a credible candidate before declaring that their councillors have a free vote.
Those characteristics ought to include, for example, personal stature, evidence of a capacity to safeguard the dignity of the Office while capably promoting our national reputation with a style, elegance, energy and impact that is commendable; skills in social leadership and an ability to relate to all facets of society in Ireland and elsewhere; a thorough understanding of the Constitutional position of the Presidency and a perspective on how the Presidency could be further developed to build on the legacy accomplished.
The choosing of candidates for this election is therefore not a similar exercise to that of a bull-run, where a cohort of the sartorially challenged and politically spontaneous presenting themselves as independent candidates for Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann with an alternative outlook on the universe that is adapted and scripted by them on the hoof.
Several individuals have indicated a desire to seek a nomination to contest the presidential election but none of them have really spelled why they are sufficiently distinguished and accomplished to prompt the electorate to vote for them.
Finally, the Office of President has become something of a family enterprise with the President’s family, especially the spouse, playing a crucial role in the success of a presidential term. None of the prospective candidates have indicated if they have any back-up of this nature to support what has become a very complex and personally demanding role requiring an incumbent of exceptional talent and ability.
Fianna Fáil would need to extend their commitment to the process of qualifying candidates beyond a desire to be in the winners enclosure next November, whether the winner is, or is not, a Fianna Fáil devotee.