The statement by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams last weekend that his party may well run an Irish presidential candidate has certainly added an intriguing factor to the mix.
Neither Sinn Fein nor Fianna Fail have announced for definite whether they will field a candidate, but with time running short they will need to make that decision shortly.
From the Irish abroad point of view Sinn Fein are acutely attuned to issues of importance, with full time representation on the American end for many years.
Fianna Fail suffered a near fatal blow in the recent Irish elections. They are reluctant to contest and prefer to rebuild but will have to offer a candidate if Sinn Fein do.
The other contenders for the 2011 Irish presidential race are almost ready to go into the starting gate. It promises to be an interesting contest.
Bookmakers make Michael D. Higgins, the Labor Party nominee, the current favorite, but only on sufferance until Fine Gael choose their candidate this weekend.
There are four contenders for that party’s nomination, and it is difficult to ascertain who the favorite is. Bookmakers favor European Member of Parliament (MP) Gay Mitchell as the marginal favorite.
Higgins is a man of real stature, a committed left leaning leader in the Labor Party for many years. A poet and scholar, he certainly sends a strong message about Ireland’s artistic and cultural heritage.
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Higgins removed Section 31 from the statute books, the legislation that made it illegal to hear from a Sinn Fein member on radio or television.
It was an odious piece of legislation, and Higgins performed a major public service by doing away with it.
Mitchell is a formidable political infighter but does not have the national status that Higgins has. The other Fine Gael candidates also lack that accomplishment level.
Pat Cox is a former European Parliament president, a mainly honorific post, in a parliament which is relatively toothless in comparison to the sovereign governments.
Mairead McGuinness is a European MP and Avril Doyle is a former European MP.
With Fine Gael enjoying record levels of popularity among the Irish electorate the party candidate should be an obvious favorite, but none of the party’s big guns decided to compete.
The most colorful candidate by far is Trinity College Senator David Norris, the man who single-handedly created rights for gays in Ireland and has been a passionate voice for the underprivileged.
However, comments he made about ancient homosexual practices have landed his campaign in hot water even though he still leads doggedly in the opinion polls.
Two other candidates are also in the field -- Sean Gallagher, a host on Ireland’s version of The Apprentice, and Special Olympics chairwoman Mary Davis.
At this stage with the field still undecided it is impossible to gauge who the likely winner is. Suffice to say there are a few more twists and turns in store before the final vote in the fall.