The race for the Irish presidency is attaining a wacky image as contenders fall like ninepins, and more and more candidates are said to be ready to come forward.
Though polling day is a little over two months away at the end of October, there is a distinct possibility that the winner of the race has not yet declared.
Last week saw the demise of the second polls topper in a row, then broadcaster Gay Byrne decided not to put his name forward despite leading handsomely in an opinion poll.
Byrne’s candidacy had become a media obsession, and there were dark hints of stories about his financial difficulties that may well have prompted him not to run.
Byrne had hardly washed out of the race when 80-year-old Micheal OMuirceartaigh, a former sports commentator with an unforgettable voice and popular touch, was suddenly the subject of frenzied speculation.
Yes, we know, August is a slow month for news, but more was to come. American actor Martin Sheen, with over 1,000 followers on Facebook urging him to run -- he is an Irish citizen through his Tipperary-born mother -- was suddenly featuring in dispatches as a possible starter.
The notion of Charlie Sheen’s dad running for president was an interesting if unlikely scenario to say the least.
All of which goes to show the deep dissatisfaction with the field as currently constituted, with the Labor Party’s Michael D. Higgins the favorite and Fine Gael’s Gay Mitchell as second favorite, followed by two independents.
Previous to Byrne’s decision to opt out, there was the decision by front-runner David Norris to also pull his campaign after a story about defending a former lover in a pedophile case in Israel emerged.
It certainly helped create the wacky image that has grown to surround the race that anything is possible.
We have still not heard from either Fianna Fail for Sinn Fein on whether they will stand a candidate which could change the dynamic again, while a group of independents in the Dail (Parliament) say they may well announce another contender shortly.
The media has been having a field day processing all these comings and goings and digging up whatever salacious materials they can on each of the candidates.
At this stage it is safe to say that, despite all the hullabaloo and the hysteria the two main party candidates, well funded with a political machine ready to go to work for them are the overwhelming favorites that one of them will be elected.
It used to be that Irish presidential elections were utterly formulaic. Fianna Fail won all of them until Mary Robinson sprung a surprise in 1990.
It was an office for old men, retired paladins form Fianna Fail, but Robinson’s victory changed all that.
Current President Mary McAleese was a Fianna Fail pick as well, but she helped complete the transformation of the office when elected and she leaves after her 14 years in power with an incredible 90%-plus positive rating.
Whoever succeeds her will have quite a task trying to match her popularity. Suffice to say the identity of that person is still very much up in the air. The next two months will be interesting.
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