Updated: 26/10/16 : 05:28:35
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editorial

Five years since we elected our President

By Eugene McGloin

FIVE YEARS since our last election for President will have elapsed tomorrow, Thursday.

There are two years left in the first term of office for President Michael D Higgins.

It remains to be seen whether he seeks a second term, either unopposed or facing an election.

The President will be aged 77 in late 2018, if there is an election.

Highly Successful

He would still be younger than, for example, Douglas Hyde was coming to the office as first ever President.

President Higgins, if he seeks a second term, would be younger than Eamon de Valera when he sought a second term.

Both Hyde and Dev were highly successful candidates for President in the past.

Fifty years have now elapsed since President de Valera stood in his final election.

Dev lost all the Dublin constituencies to a candidate 30 years younger.

But bolstered by the rural vote, Dev won by his final ever election with just 10,000 votes to spare nationally, a nail biter.

He got a close shave despite the Easter Rising special anniversary in 1966.

Closer Shave

But arguably nobody, In the eighty years history of the Presidency, got a closer shave than the  current President.

Michael D Higgins was an also-ran, a badly beaten docket, 100 hours before Irish people cast their vote in October 2011. Final opinion polls confirmed that.

The rest is history; Sinn Fein put a bomb, figuratively, under the campaign of Sean Gallagher as he surged towards the winning tape.

Michael D Higgins had never looked like a winner even in the early stages in 2011.

Lannigans Ball

Back then, the (pre) election posturing had started with David Norris as clear favourite.

It was his 'election to lose'.....and Norris managed to do just that and in spectacular style.

Like a remix of Lannigans Ball, Norris stepped in and stepped out and stepped back in during the race. He dizzied even his own staunchest supporters;

In the end the Norris campaign too much resembled the recession-era dance marathon in the film 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They.'

Last person standing would be the winner in those marathons.

It was clear, from a long way out, that David Norris had fallen in 2011.

Meanwhile, the cachet which Michael D Higgins brought to the table was coloured and clouded by something much, much simpler.

Simpler to state, namely, his age. Fairly or unfairly it was an issue for some back then. In 2018? Who knows and will it matter? 

Anyway, any plans pencilled in by the President for a second term may be circumscribed by what British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan called ''events, dear boy, events.''

Safest Bet

Events? We could now be facing THREE trips to the polling booth in year 2018.

1. Last night in the Dail we saw the architecture noisily installed for a referendum (maybe) on the Eighth Amendment..... but at earliest in 2018;

2. The Fianna Fáil 'confidence and supply' agreement to support three budgets and the Government expires in autumn 2018;

3. We are due to have a Presidential election in 2018 for a seven year term, to 2025.

The (doubtless) divisions and bitterness to come in the first item, long before the polls, will greatly shape outcome(s) in the second and third items, above.

Fine Gael has never won an election for President, although Thomas F O'Higgins came within that hair's breadth in 1966.

For now, Fine Gael as also-rans and badly beaten dockets, seem the safest bets for any Presidential election in 2018.

But didn't some also-ran also win such a race not so long ago! He could do it again.....