Well, pretty magnificent. The old Dog for the hard road. Candidate selection was the critical factor. Michael D Higgins is one of the few professional politicians who can speak both engagingly and passionately about the Constitution. And the only one who managed to project himself in the role of President.
By all accounts his farewell speech to his Labour colleagues was both powerful and emotional. But it was a farewell. There is little doubting the mans intention to play the role as laid down in the Constitution, not activist nor outspoken but as a key functionary in the running of the state.
In the end he caned the other candidates as each of their party colours came to light. But Labour will not likely allow itself to be tracked into believing that a vote in a Presidential election is the same as that in a Dail election. Higgins had two key boosters. The Fine Gael candidate flatlined,so it made sense to vote for a coalition partner. And two, unusually for Labour Higgins is not only a west of Ireland man he held a seat there for most of his political career.
In no other election is the campaign as critical. That’s because the electorate is genuinely national, and, less formally than in France, people are forced to drop their normal allegiences to either pick or block winners.
Nevertheless, Labour headed off a strong challenge in Dublin West from Ruth Cottinger of the Socialist Party, ironically on a near oppositionist ticket making bed closures in a local hospital (by coalition health minister, James Reilly) the key issue in the process making Labour the first government party to win a by election in a political generation.
All in all, all in all, pretty orgasmic for the red team. But come Monday, it’s back to government porridge and the difficult long haul to the next general election.