Niall O'Dowd: Day one on the presidential campaign in Ireland
Having the US oath of allegiance used against me
I never thought I'd have the American oath of allegiance, taken when you become a US citizen, quoted at me as a negative but it happened on a radio show here to me.
The issue is whether by becoming a dual citizen I have forfeited my right to run for political office in Ireland.
The presenter on Newstalk radio zeroes right in on it after a British writer for the Irish Times raised the issue.
It seems a spurious argument, given that I have worked on Irish issues, spent the first 26 years of my life in Ireland and have always been entirely comfortable with my allegiance to both countries. I will yield to no one on my right to be Irish.
Little Irelanders, however, want people to think otherwise, that somehow coming from abroad threatens what they hold dear.
Thankfully, they are a small but vocal minority.
Overall it has been a fascinating experience.
Day one of my trip to Ireland to pursue the nomination for the Irish presidency begins in the radio studio of Irish broadcasting legend Pat Kenny on RTE the state channel.
Kenny is the go-to guy in Irish radio for decades, a tough presenter but fair, who pulls no punches.
Just before the red light comes on I see him shuffling his copious notes and wonder what he is going to hit me with.
In the event the interview is fair but tough. The Irish Times screed by London Times obituary writer Walter Ellis, accusing me of being anti-British Royal family and too extreme gets an airing but I am comfortable answering the questions.
If the worst my opponents can throw at me is that I question the magnificence of the British Royal family to an audience in the Irish Republic I am on pretty safe grounds.
The comments that come in during the interview reflect that.
The observations are mostly complimentary. I think that is due to one key fact.
The major declared candidates for this job are running on lifelong resumes as politicians, several from the now discredited European Parliament.
The last people Irish want to hear from right now are politicians given the mess the country is in.
There is also a clear dearth of ideas among those candidates, with mostly touchy feely yak yak about national conversations and kumbaya sentiments.
I take the tack that I can help with jobs, tourism and education.
It is a practical appeal and it seems to go over well. People have had it with slogans and backslapping.
Outside the studio an RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster crew interviews me. Later I do an interview with The Irish Times who are clearly irritated by my candidacy judging by the Ellis article and some snide letters.
It is amazing how the most insular views about outsiders are often expressed in the most sophisticated circles.
But I have have made one piece of personal history. The famed IrishTimes cartoonist Martyn Turner, a national treasure, has portrayed me in the Tuesday newspaper as one of the candidiates, decked out in my Uncle Sam outfit. HIlarious.
The Matt Cooper show on Today FM later that night throws me a curveball. Matt asks me at the end "Have I ever inhaled?" Immediately I respond that I did and we both burst out laughing, realizing the absurdity of the original Bill Clinton response.
On Tuesday morning heading back to my hotel I see the American Ambassador Dan Rooney getting out of his car to attend mass in the city.When I go to the dining room in my hotel the Prime Minister Enda Kenny is having breakfast there with some people.
That's Ireland, gloriously sometimes frustratingly, intimate.
So that is it for Day One on the trail in Ireland.
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