Friday, September 16, 2011

And then there were four, no five, no six, no seven

The presidential election has certainly sparked to life again in the last few days. Firstly Davis and Gallagher rustled up the requisite number of councils. Then Norris started playing the Lanigan's Ball game - in then out then in again. Next Fianna Fáil get back in the game with rumours of Lamhrás Ó Murchú planning a run. The just this afternoon news is leaked that Martin McGuinness will be the Sinn Féin candidate. Phew! Lets look at each of these bits one at a time.

Early on in the week both Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher managed to secure nominations from at least four county or city councils, making them the third and fourth official candidates on the ballot paper after Gay Mitchell and Michael D Higgins. Not content with four nominations, Davis continued to have motions of support passed ending up with around 10. To my mind this was a bit of a risky move. While supporters will argue that it shows she has the backing of people from around the country, I think that it will be more played as a blocking move, using up nominations so that other candidates can't enter the race. This is certainly the line that Gallagher took, requesting that motions to support him be removed from the agenda at other council meetings once he had his four secured.

The David Norris re-appeared. We all know how his previous exit from the race went (here and here) so I am hugely surprised that he is trying to come back. True, he finished his speech with the phrase "fail better" but I wasn't really expecting him to prove it so quickly. The issues surrounding his withdrawal haven't changed or gone away. I am also pretty sure that a good number of his previous Oireachtas supporters have left him, not to mention his campaign staff. He also returned all his campaign finances and so is starting from scratch. I don't expect to see his name on the ballot paper come polling day.

Micheal Martin really can't win on this one. Having decided to not put forward an official Fianna Fáil candidate, he should have issued an edict that TDs and Senators were to not get involved in the nomination game. However, he left the door open and talk started about FF members nominating someone who wouldn't be an FF candidate. Then to top it all off, Lamhrás Ó Murchú, the FF Senator who lost the whip over the civil partnership bill last year, has indicated a desire and willingness to stand. Of all the people FF could put up, Ó Cuív and Crowley being the obvious choices, Ó Murchú is pretty much near the bottom of the list. FF should be just concentrating on the Dublin West by election and scoring points against the government in the run up to the budget.

Our latest entry to the field is the Deputy First Minister from the North, Martin McGuinness. He is the best choice they have since Pearse Doherty doesn't meet the age requirement. Of course, SF only have 17 Oireachtas members so there are three others signing his papers. I'm guessing they'll be from the ranks of the ULA. Of course the announcement had to be delayed until today so McGuinness can apply for the 6 week sabbatical from being DFM, much as Peter Robinson did during the UK General Election. It will be very interesting to see how both the media and the other parties treat the entry of SF into the race. Given the absolute destruction that was rained down on Norris I'm looking forward to seeing a similar level of investigation into McGuinness. I don't expect him to win, but they will poll a respectable 12%-15% which may put them third on the first count. I think they would count that as a victory, especially given the lack of an official FF candidate.

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