Monday, October 3, 2011

A mandate to become President of Ireland or a camouflage for congenital laziness and inertia?

The Irish people are about to be asked to make a 7-year commitment on the 27th October when they choose they next President.  They are entitled to be provided with an intelligent insight into the qualities, qualifications and limitations of the panel of candidates and how each of them intends to conduct that office. 

The Irish Times in its edition of 3rd October has given the candidates in the Irish presidential election a platform to set out their stall under the banner ‘Why I should be President’. Each of them manages to convey absolutely nothing to answer this question.

Mary Davis wants ‘to make a contribution to Ireland’s recovery; restoration of pride at home and reputation across the world’. She does not indicate how she intends to accomplish this. But, like an observer on the upper deck of a double-deck bus she has seen others overcome adversity. As a member of the Council of State she has observed the protection of the Constitution. She advises that “the presidency is about ‘influence’ – using your voice as president to speak for all the people of Ireland, especially those for whom Ireland has not been a welcoming place; about using the office to promote fairness, equality and respect for every person in the country and playing a more expansive international role”.  How has this candidate obtained influence and used it throughout her career?

To whom will her voice be directed to achieve these desirable objectives? What is fairness? How can a President inculcate respect for every person? Where will the more expansive international role be conducted and who on the international will make a difference? She doesn’t indicate which languages she is proficient in so as to expand the international footprint.  The electorate need to understand the precise scope and nature of the intended contribution.

Sean Gallagher wants to put enterprise at the heart of the next presidency. How will his concept of enterprise be juxtaposed with the dynamics of a free marketplace? He wants to become involved in trade missions. Where would he travel to and who would he meet? What would he say when met the target audience? How would he select his targets?

But it is not the function of the President of Ireland to lead trade missions. Dialogue with business people is a components of a President’s international mandate but the responsibility for execution and delivery rests with a Government minister. Gallagher fails to indicate an understanding of the function. Other people are paid handsomely to accomplish what he thinks he could achieve. The nation needs an inspiring statesman in the role of President, not a technician with modest accomplishments.

Michael D Higgins wants inclusive citizenship in a creative society. He does not elaborate on what barriers need to be removed to progress this and how he, as President, can remove them. What is inclusive citizenship? How might I feel if I were included in this process? He is almost 70 years old. Will his health and stamina be robust enough to be an effective President?

David Norris continues to wander around his own personal hall of fame. He wants to put the welfare of people at the centre of political culture. Is that not a role for the leaders of political parties? He believes the role of President needs to be reinvented so that the image of Ireland evokes a smile but fails to elucidate in what direction he would reinvent it.

Gay Mitchell is concerned about the number of suicides and elsewhere I read that he is proposing that the Irish President should become joint head of state in Northern Ireland. Mitchell has been in politics for decades. Why has he had no influence on suicide trends and what exactly does he believe the President can do about this trend? The election is being fought on the basis of the Constitution. How does he propose to effect his proposal with respect to Northern Ireland? Perhaps he might emulate President Obama if he were to seek to also become the joint President of Russia. Credibility rather than hallucinogenic thinking might offer more grounded leadership.

Martin McGuinness wants to construct a new republic in which he would be President of people in the 32 counties of Ireland – whether they want this or not. He wants to make employment the cornerstone of his presidency – but in which part of his kingdom will the jobs become available and who will be the employers? He wants to overhaul what he describes as the archaic mode of selecting candidates but he does not elaborate on what the nature of his implied change might be.  How will he deal with conflicts of interest between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?

Dana presents herself as an entertainer and a business woman. We know she sings hymns but the electorate has no idea as to what her business experience is or how successful she has been in this field. She wants to be an ardent protector of the Constitution. Her presidency will be a catalyst to overcome intolerance and eliminate barriers. How does she intend to do that?

If each of these candidates were to set out what accomplishments they aim to achieve in the second year of the 7-year term the electorate might have some idea as to where their compass is pitched. These vignettes lack candour, conviction or credibility. But this opinion piece is merely a trawl of a stream of consciousness that contains no analysis; an unfocused immature internal monologue. The tragedy is that this pathetic posturing could shroud the egotistical ambitions of lazy, incompetent people unfit for the role of head of state who would become a massive reputational time bomb as President of Ireland.

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