Not even a week after tentative rumours of his possible run for the Irish presidency first began circulating, Gay Byrne has added a minor blotch to his record by claiming that ‘mad people’ in Brussels run the European Union.
“I think there is no backing out now [of the bid for office],” Gaybo claimed in an impromptu media comment after a dinner function, “but it is a mad, mad world and we are being run by mad people in Brussels."
Unfortunately for Byrne, a veteran broadcaster and formerly one of Ireland’s leading television personalities, the slip-up has already been picked up on by over 100 news sources in Ireland and the UK, and been splashed over national news, radio, and tabloids, leading to a very early blip in a bid that seems to have been met with almost universal goodwill across the country.
Although, Byrne (77) has already secured the crucial backing of pop-duo Jedward ("If we were allowed to contest the election we would totally win,” one of the twins also claimed in their comment to the Belfast Telegraph), the anti-EU ‘rant’, as an Irish website characterized it, adds to a long litany of anti-EU views expressed by Byrne throughout his broadcasting years.
Despite Byrne’s suddenly soaring popularity for the Republic’s highest office (a Red C poll conducted for bookmakers Paddy Powers put him as the now favourite for the race, at 28% of the poll), the comments, which highlight his Euroskepticism, may cause disquiet among the politicians pushing him to make the leap and contest the race.
At a time when Ireland’s financial viability hangs largely on its ability to negotiate favourable borrowing terms with the EU/IMF grouping responsible for Ireland's financial bailout, and political leaders desperately clamour for interest rate reductions to enable an easier pay-off, falling out of favour with the money-masters and making slipshod remarks such as Bryne’s outburst may provoke justifiable concern that he may not be suited to the job. David Norris’ deserted spin-doctors may need to be drafted aboard to deal with any future crises.
Despite the minor faux-pas, however, Byrne’s bid for success seems otherwise to be destined for success.
That the Red C poll shows him with a clear majority in favour of him becoming Ireland's next President is a fact made all the more encouraging given that it emerged just days after news of his possible candidacy first broke, while he has also reputedly secured the backing of the requisite 20 members of the Oireachtas (Houses of Parliament) as well as an encouraging phone-call from leader of the Opposition Micheal Martin.
The comments also put Byrne’s politics squarely at odds with other front-runner Gay Mitchell -- Fine Gael’s man for the job who is also a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and a long-time believer in all things Europe.
The minor slip up, however, pales in comparison to the previous controversies that have dotted the presidential race.
After David Norris’ failed bid for clemency and pederasty remarks a minor slip of the tongue from the Independent candidate could be the least Irish voters have on their minds when casting the all-important ballot in two months’ time.