I observed the ebb and flow of the Irish presidential election over the past 10 days, or so, in Puerto Banus on the Costa de Sol. It has been a turgid campaign not made any easier for voters by a naive and very amateurish approach and a reluctance by candidates to disclose very much about themselves.
Take Seán Gallagher for instance. I received a leaflet from him by mail when I returned yesterday. He states ‘Ireland is a great country. We are a strong and proud people. We have an entrepreneurial spirit. We have bright and well educated young people. We are creative, loved and respected internationally.’ He goes on to say ‘What we need now is to believe in ourselves’. The only information conveyed about himself is his surname and one Christian name.
Dana Rosemary Scallon in a similar leaflet explains that ‘I will be President for all the people’. Really? Is that not the purpose of the office? ‘I will always protect Irelands sovereignty’ but as a ‘truly independent’ she says ‘I have no agenda’. Mrs Scallon discloses no personal details about herself and neither do any of the other candidates.
Someone seeking to work as a chambermaid in the presidential mansion would be required to provide more biographical information than these people.
Why should voters give any consideration to candidates who are essentially strangers? Apart from winning enough votes the incoming President also needs to win the trust of the nation and the legitimacy to be an effective President with the potential to become a statesman of consequence in the global arena.
A curriculum vitae would have been an appropriate starting point. Voters ought to know who the potential President really and details such as educational attainment; proficiency in languages; leadership experience; ability to scrutinise legislation; personal values and whether they are tax compliant, solvent or legal transgressions. They could elaborate on how they have coped with crisis in their lives.
All of this could form the backdrop to an explanation of how they might conduct the presidency; the priorities and concrete goals they intend to set.
What has transpired instead is a campaign driven by the news media who investigated facets of candidates’ background leaving the candidate floundering with peripheral issues that become full-blown controversies.