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It has been the most dramatic Presidential election ever, with seven candidates finally lining up to go before the electorate. Among them is former Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Michael D Higgins. So who is the man about whom The Sawdoctors wrote ‘Michael D Rockin In The Dail’? And if he does find favour with the electorate, what kind of presidency can we expect from him?
Olaf Tyaransen, 19 Oct 2011
It has been a fascinating Presidential campaign. Over the past two months the landscape in the race to become the ninth president of Ireland has changed utterly – and changed utterly again.
There was the drama of David Norris’ withdrawal after what smelt suspiciously like a smear campaign. As if that wasn’t enough, one of Sinn Féin’s most prominent personalities of the last 25 years, Martin McGuinness declared his candidacy.
In quick succession Mary Davis secured her place on the ballot paper, Dragon’s Den man Sean Gallagher gathered momentun behind his bid, David Norris re-entered the race on a wave of optimism and former Eurovision winner Dana made a late burst for inclusion. All the while Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell was revving up his campaign.
Thanks in part at least to Michael D’s intervention, instructing Labour councillors that he did not want David Norris’ candidacy blocked, the gay rights campaigner is now back in the game, while Dana, Sean Gallagher and Mary Davis have also secured sufficient support to run. There are now seven candidates standing for the office, more than ever before.
According to the pol-cors and the opinion polls alike, Michael D is the front-runner, but the former Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht is taking nothing for granted, pounding the beat from one end of the country to the other, fighting the campaign of his life. The challenge now is to keep the momentum going, to get every potential vote out on the day – and the only way you can do that is by dint of sheer hard work. No time to waste then...
OLAF TYARANSEN: At the age of 70, you’re the oldest candidate in this election. What’s your response to people who say you’re too old for the job?
MICHAEL D HIGGINS: Well, I have a long list of people who have achieved many things after the age of 70 (laughs). I’ve had the energy to run an internal campaign, within the Labour Party, for nine months and win against other very strong candidates. From the 19th of June, when I got the nomination, until now, I have travelled 23,000 kilometres. So I have no difficulty in terms of energy and capacity. I say to people when I’m asked, “they say that Picasso did his best work between the ages of 72 and 90.” And it’s true. Age shouldn’t be a barrier. I have been attending Irish international matches at which I have been very much in admiration of Signor Trapattoni’s energy on the sideline, and he’s a few years older than me. So I feel confident that I will be able to do a very good job.