Running for Irish President: Seeking the votes and watching the passing parade

The Irish President's residence: Áras an Uachtaráin

(Irish central publisher Niall O’Dowd is considering a run for president of Ireland, here is his blog)

Spending a morning in Dail Eireann as the Irish parliament is called is an exercise in who’s who.

Here is the Prime Minister Enda Kenny bounding out through the main gate, a new opinion poll showing him at record popularity and clearly enjoying the day in the sun literally.

He stops and talks every few strides, a gregarious leader who has a clear common touch. The Queen Elizabeth and Obama visits were beautifully handled and he deserves the boost.

Gerry Adams strides out, still an incongruous figure to me here in Dublin when I am so used to seeing him at Stormont.

The poll results were good for him and his party too and he has a broad grin.

Here is Irish sporting legend Eamonn Coghlan, recently selected to the Upper House, strolling into the chamber and his new life.

He looks as fit and ready to run as he did when he was ‘Chairman of the Boards’ and breaking the world indoor mile record back in the 1980s.

I used to cover Eamon’s races back then, got to know him well and could have matched him for slimness if not talent!. Those were the days.

Here too are the media, from the dozens of newspapers now covering the Dail.

They loiter with intent, the sideways glance and nod and a wink and a whisper also suggestive. It reminds me of the Roman Forum down to the plinth, where the party grandees come to pontificate on whatever subject.

Rumors are the currency of the day, opinion polls are said to be imminent, another contender for president ready to appear. It is a fascinating mix of innuendo and gossip.

In the distance a protest about something is being held. We are inside the walls, impervious.

Every presidential candidate, including myself as a potential one, are trawling the halls, gripping and grinning every passing politician who may have a vote in getting them on the ballot.

The rules for running are clear, 20 members of the Dail or Upper House the Seanad must vote for you.

For candidates from the major parties such as Fine Gael the question is will their party colleagues vote for them in their internal contest.

Labor have chosen Micheal D. Higgins, one of their old guard and a stalwart defender of free speech who will always be remembered for removing the odious Section 31, banning Sinn Fein speakers from the airwaves, from the statute book.

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are undecided about whether to run a candidate or not. The Fine Gael candidates are most in evidence.

Pat Cox, former President of the European parliament, solemn and serious, Mairead McGuinness a European MP , elegant and forthcoming, stops to chat about the race and her utter belief that the grassroots are with her.

I find myself in good company, Senator Fergal Quinn perhaps the most pro-American member of the Irish houses. A hugely successful businessman he has an instinctive feel and regard for the U.S.
We discuss our mutual friend and inspiration Coca Cola’s Don Keough and swap Keough stories.
Fergal remembers him barreling into one of his supermarkets, entourage vainly trying to keep up with him, selling coke like he’s running for president.

I recall the time almost on a whim he rounded up Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and flew them to Ireland for a weekend.

The time passes but we are enjoying the conversation.

The vote bell chimes and Fergal gets up to leave. I am buttonholed by a young man who looks about 20 to me who is a County Kerry senator.

He has a friend who wants to expand on idea I talked about on radio for bringing more American tourists to Ireland.

I run into my brother the Minister of State who is escorting an American businessman I introduced him to lunch.

We chat, the time passes and the business of a nation goes on all around me.

A pleasant day.

I am now back in America, preparing for our big Top 50 Women event on Thursday night. I’m looking forward to it. Consistently the women chosen are incredibly grateful for the honor a function of the fact that such women are rarely acknowledged.

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