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And they’re off!

With possibly the most interesting presidential race in the history of Ireland underway, what do people think of the candidates that have been put before us? Who is Áras material?

David Norris

Although this should not be the case, the first thing a lot of people think of when they think of Norris is that he is the gay candidate. Many citizens have come out and said, while they don’t have problem with him being gay, they don’t think he should be president. Many others say their lack of support has nothing to do with his sexual orientation, but more his lack of judgement in light of the letters of clemency for his former partner, who was convicted of statutory rape. Others are worried that other dynasties would not be accepting of him because he’s gay, which would, of course cause problems in representing Ireland. On the positive side, people feel Norris is a massive campaigner for human rights, civil rights and gay rights. He decriminalised homosexuality in Ireland and is an articulate, well educated senator.

Martin McGuinness

The first thing a lot of the public might think of when they hear Martin McGuinness’s name is IRA. He has already admitted to being in the IRA for a short amount of time. Immediately people jump from there to other questions: Did he murder people? How long was he really in the IRA ? Can we trust him? Other members of the public believe what’s in the past is in the past and the old IRA was fighting for an important cause at the time, therefore should his actions then be judged as they would be in modern times? McGuinness also played a massive part in the peace process inNorthern Ireland. This was a huge development for Ireland, so he clearly stands for things that are important to this country. Yet, he refused to meet the Queen. People find this worrying because one of the few major jobs the President has is to meet other figure heads and represent Ireland and if he cannot do that, maybe he’s not cut out for the job, despite his active role as a peacemaker.

Michael D. Higgins

He seems to be the favourite according to most of the polls. He pushed to get Norris his final nomination will make him look attractive amongst the Norris advocates. But what else do people know and think about him? He became the Minister for Arts in 1993 and he’s also the president of the Labour Party and a well-known poet, author and broadcaster. His main disadvantage is his age. As the oldest candidate in the race, people worry he’s passed his time and will not represent the majority of the public. However, he has campaigned for human rights and has been endorsed by Martin Sheen. He’s a strong contender. He is seen by the public as a representation of the more romantic version of Ireland.

Gay Mitchell

As a long serving politician, people feel that Gay Mitchell is too much a part of the Government to take up the independent role as President. He is seen in the eyes of the public as a bit of a ‘grey character.’ He’s one of the least talked about candidates in the race and members of the public don’t have much interest in finding out more about him. His strongest support will probably lie in the Fine Gael supporters as he is considered ‘very Fine Gael.’ His biggest controversy involves letters of clemency he wrote on behalf of a prisoner on death row. Some people feel this is too much interference on his part.

Mary Davis

Independent candidate Davis is a social entrepreneur and the managing director of the Special Olympics. I don’t think people were massive fans of the fact that she hogged a grand total of 13 county councils when she only needed four. However, I think the public has moved on and are looking at her credentials. She does have a bit of legal experience that will stand to her but people worry that she’s not as independent as she seems and also that she is too narrow in what she wants to bring to the job. Despite this, she’s doing relatively well in the polls.

Sean Gallagher

An entrepreneur, successful businessman and most well-known as one of the dragons on Dragon’s Den. He also has a strong community background and does a lot of work for the rights of those with disabilities. With his strong business background, the general consensus is that he will be mostly focused on the current economy and push for more enterprise and jobs. However, as the youngest candidate, there is also a worry that he doesn’t have enough experience, or at least, that his experience is too specific and he will not have the ability to carry out important presidential jobs like signing off on new legislation.

Dana Rosemary Scallon

She’s “all kinds of everything.” MEP, Eurovision winner,family woman. Could she add president to her list? She tried to in the past, running against Mary McAleese, but, obviously, fell short. Now, she’s back again. People’s immediate thoughts on Dana would be “Is she serious?” “Does she have any necessary criteria to be President?” However, despite officially entering the race late, she managed to get her four county council nominations without problems. She has a surprising amount of support, particularly for her strong family and social values. She will have support from the older generation and from rural parts of the country. However, a slightly worrying concept is the fact that a woman on the radio recently said she’d be voting for Dana because she’s a lovely woman and she was great in the Eurovision. However, apart from the likes of that woman, Dana’s not doing as well in the polls as her competitors.

As usual, the presidential election brings about plenty of opinions from the Irish electorate, and not just about the candidates. Many believe it is a pointless office, a waste of money with the salary as well as the upkeep of the Áras. It is also a general feeling in light of Norris almost missing out on a nomination, that the nomination process is flawed, with no public input at all. In addition, people felt cheated when Fianna Fáil opted to waste their 33 signatures and abstain from nominating anyone. This could turn out to be one of the most exciting Presidential elections to date.

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