I cannot think of another Head of State’s office where there is sometimes no competitive election, given a popular incumbent. It sort of happens because, like much else in the Irish state, it is in the gift of the country’s political class as to whether it is worth holding an election, or not.
This is partly what’s been going on with Fianna Fail’s no show this time round. No chance of winning, no point running. Mary Regan in the Irish Examiner:
The question a lot of people will be thinking when this election truly gets underway is whether we want the President to “butt out” of anything meaningful or pertinent to our country’s future, or whether we want a political player who can change it for the better.
The last three presidential ‘terms’ takes us the whole way back to the term of three Presidents (Childers, O’Dalaigh, Hillary) which began in 1973. Indeed, one step back from that and Dev takes us back almost 52 years to 1959.
It’s not that the office doesn’t have significance, at least at the right moment, as Mrs McAleese proved during the Queen’s recent state visit, it can powerfully underscore the hard won independence of the state. And the last two female presidents have shown that, with the right vision, it can have a very high public profile.
Perhaps it could be tweaked, as Mary Kenny suggests, so that it is not just another in house party political concern:
The role of the president could be more economically organised, and the procedure could be made more open and less party-political: why not allow anyone who has the support of 20,000 citizens to stand, instead of needing the endorsement of 20 Oireachtas members or four county councils?
But as Conor Pope (no, not that one) notes, most normal people don’t care about politics…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty