Saturday, 15 October 2011

Looking "South"

Turning away from UK Politics for a moment, it is interesting to take a look at a very lively contest taking place in the Republic of Ireland. With 7 candidates, this is the biggest field in a Presidential election in the history of the current republic.

For UK readers and others not familiar with the election here is the wikipedia page about this election.

There are 3 issues that have made me decide to post on this.

1) Sinn Fein have for the first time decided to run their own candidate - in the person of Martin McGuinness. They have this right under the constitution and their selection of a Northerner is not in question - indeed former SDLP man Austin Currie(1990 Fine Gael candidate) and current President Mary McAleese both come from this part of the island. However I am concerned when he and his party try to rule out legitimate lines of debate about his past and his role within the IRA and the wider movement.Especially when they are at the same time making such a big thing about his part in the Peace process. As the Americans would say this is politics 101. Mcguinness has to answer these questions, and if he doesn't then the people of Ireland are right to ask if he has something to hide. If you don't answer when asked nicely, don't be surpised or offended if the questions and encounters get tougher. They should and will.

2) Dana made a statement at the end of the third TV debate on RTE's Primetime programme last Wednesday, about allegations that had not yet been made public. The allegations duly surfaced on Friday morning which involved a close family member, who is also a lead member of her election team. He was accused in an Iowa court, during an unrelated legal dispute, of having abused her niece over a period of 10 years. She threatened legal proceedings over the story. Thanks to her comments the niece in question has now set in process her own legal remedies . It has to be said that this is a real family mess, which ill betides a candidate who has placed such a heavy emphasis on family values. However the niece is the real victim here. And Dana has indeed just made the story bigger and longer lasting.She is not the victim whom the knife has been plunged in but rather the person who has twisted the knife in herself... and in her niece.

3) The Labour Party Candidate is Michael D Higgins. At 70 he is the oldest in the race, but not by much( David Norris an independent outsider is only 3 years behind him). However this has not stopped the age card being played against him. It is bad enough that the constitution bars people younger than 35 from seeking nomination, but now we have an invisible glass ceiling in some people's minds. Eamonn De Valera was 75 when first elected to the Office of President and 90 when he finally left office. The office of President is one essentially of "Parent of the Nation". They do not usually intervene but are there to do so when needed. In this case age should not be an objection, but lack of wisdom should be.

As a resident in Northern Ireland I do not have a vote for the next president, but if I did I know where it would go... to a man who has shown a wealth of wisdom in the political world and elewhere.... Michael D Higgins.

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