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Wanted in Ireland: one half-way decent presidential candidate

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Gay Byrne – not interested in being President
Candidate for the President of Ireland are falling like flies the past few days. First the leading candidate, according to the polls, David Norris withdrew after skeletons from his past came back to haunt him. Next up was Gay Byrne.

A week ago - who was it that said a week is a long time in politics - there were rumors that former television and radio talk show star Gay Byrne was going to enter the fray. "Uncle Gaybo" wanted to be President, we were told. For a few days there was a flurry of activity about a possible Byrne candidacy. Political analysts analyzed, commentators commented and one very foolish party political leader even endorsed Byrne, ignoring those in his party who wanted to run for the post themselves.

Mid-week Byrne tossed out a populist, anti-EU bombshell that had the analysts and commentators going into overdrive with their feverish speculation. Ireland was going to have a celebrity candidate.

Well, turns out the 77-year-old Byrne doesn't want to be President. That's two leading candidates out of the race in a matter of 10 days. That leaves us with four candidates, none of whom anyone seems to really want as President.

At this stage the Irish people are like that Little League coach looking down the bench wondering if there is anyone on his team who can simply throw strikes because those keenest to pitch cannot.

Thus, the search goes on for a suitable candidate and to that end we have two more possible "celebrity" candidates: former Gaelic football and hurling radio announcer Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, who will be 81 next week!, and 71-year-old Martin Sheen. Yes, that Martin Sheen, the former American President Jed Bartlett.

If you don't know Ó Muircheartaigh think of him as Ireland's Vin Scully. I'm not sure what qualifies him to be President, but if we're looking for someone to return the Presidency to what it used to be, say back in the 1940s, then Ó Muircheartaigh is probably as good a bet as any. Seems a thoroughly decent man, but he's 81. He'll be 88 when his term is up.

As for President Bartlett, sorry Martin Sheen, I don't know that anyone has actually asked him if he wants to be President of Ireland, but I suspect that if he gets wind of the fact that nobody here seems all that interested he may start asking awkward questions. Those who are campaigning to draft him as a candidate say he'd "lift the nation's spirits and strengthen economic & social ties to the US / diaspora."

Again, I'm not sure he'd be the worst candidate for the job, but I'm skeptical that he would be all that great on matters related to the "diaspora" or Irish-America, although he probably would give the nation a "lift." I just can't take him seriously, though.

It appears as if there was ever going to be a real candidate from the "diaspora" - not just a Hollywood star - that the door is wide open right now. Would an Irish-American (or Irish-Canadian, Irish-Australian, whatever) want the job? Would the people of Ireland vote for him/her?

I'm more confident that we could get a 'Yes' to the first question than the second. I really doubt that the people would vote for an Irish-American, unless, maybe, he/she was a member of the Kennedy family. There's that celebrity thing again.

Still, like I said, if ever there was a moment this is it. It will take a candidate who can create a whirlwind, to generate interest, to fill the vacuum in the campaign with energy, vitality, spontaneity, positivity, and of course, integrity and ability. Such a candidate could very well overcome the substantial impediment of not being "Irish" (as in born/raised/living in Ireland). However, the question remains, why would such a person want the job if nobody here with even half those qualities is interested?

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