Thursday, October 6, 2011

Opinion poll heralds seismic shift in Irish presidential election campaign

The latest MRBI poll results in The Irish Times are not surprising but there are 21 days campaigning days left and much can change to influence the outcome.

People are deeply and passionately interested in who is the head of state because that person becomes the bearer of a part of the ego of each and every citizen that defines our nation. The public want to know who these candidates really are and not to be merely presented with a sanitized caricature of who the candidates would like the public to perceive them to be wrapped in an enigma that is no more than a stream of vacuous consciousness of the candidate’s concept of utopia.

Michael D Higgins is the only one of the 7 that passed the biographical-details test and who introduced himself and his wife to the wider public via the Miriam Meets programme on RTE 1 Radio when he disclosed some personal minutiae about both of them.

The public also need to have some robust conviction what the election of any candidate is likely to signal about Ireland to the wider world and what impact that candidate will have on the presidential office – especially the capacity to safeguard the dignity of the office and the nation. The president is the mirror of the nation.

The potential implications of these poll trends are considerable. Fianna Fáil has demonstrated that it is so marginalised and reviled that it could not even put forward a candidate from the mainstream of Irish society to begin to inspire public confidence.

The Fine Gael party has some grounds for the deepest introspective reflection and soul-searching if their best offer to the Irish public is a candidate who is trailing second last seven – 35 points lower than the party itself. Enda Kenny has won the trust of the public and presents as a Taoiseach comfortable in that role.

I have seen first-hand in locations far away from Erin’s shore over the past 10 days that he and Eamon Gilmore have managed to salvage the credibility and stature of the country because Ireland is seen overseas as being led by a competent, stable and responsible government by power brokers whose vigilant gimlet eye defines sentiment.

Sinn Féin must think beyond the boundaries of their traditional narrow, conservative regional enclave if they are to make the stunning breakthrough they believe to be their right. They need turn up for the work they are handsomely paid to do in Westminster and scrutinise the legislation that is impacting the lives of tens of thousands of citizens in the single-seat parliamentary constituencies that they were elected to represent. Laggards in any walk of life are ultimately a useless, irrelevant carbuncle on the arse of spineless society. If Sinn Féin is to be acknowledged as a serious party of national leadership then it is time to start leading, not posturing as neighbourhood activists and playing to the whims of a narrow gallery .

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