Updated: 04/09/17 : 05:22:59
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Sligo TD once stood for the Presidency

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

FOUR IMAGES dominate any assessment of Fine Gael's past pushes to win one of the big political prizes.

They are: Cows. Arse. Banjo. Presidency. The full sentence with all four you can write yourself.

Scared Since

One example often quoted: Fine Gael wouldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo when it comes to winning the Presidency.

It is over half a century since Fine Gael came close to victory....and that party has been scared of that election ever since.

Statistic: The late Patrick Hillery was President for two terms and yet faced only ONE real challenge in those 14 years, one often forgotten too.

Hillery was never opposed by Fine Gael, only inside his own party for the nomination by the former Donegal and Leitrim TD, the late Joe Brennan.

Now comes a Silly Season sign-off stinker at the weekend from within Fine Gael.

Namely, Fine Gael thinks it might have the perfect candidate for the Presidency.

He is named, too; The Irish Mail on Sunday said yesterday.....Simon Coveney.

A future party leader and sooner maybe than some think is not likely to bite such a toy bone. 

It is clear Fine Gael at its upper levels is (already) running scared -- running scared of running a candidate, that is. It doesn't want anyone. 

Feisty Take-on

The best indication FG does not want to spend a red cent in a Presidential election was its recent public endorsement of Michael D Higgins.

Meanwhile, Michael D Higgins has the Constitutional right to re-nominate himself to stand again.

He does not need the endorsement of, or permission of, the Taoiseach to run again.

Nor do Fine Gael have the right to deny the electorate a vote on an(y) important political office just because they have no chance.

The current stale fudge contrasts with Fine Gael's feisty take-on of De Valera when he first went for the Presidency in 1959.

Earthquake Upset

That year, General Sean MacEoin was the Fine Gael standard bearer.

Exactly thirty years earlier MacEoin had been elected TD for Sligo Leitrim in the 1929 by election.

MacEoin tasted his first defeat in 1959 but afterwards Fine Gael hammered away at the one chink they believed they saw in Dev's legendary armour -- his age.

So in 1966, they fielded a young Tom O'Higgins against Dev and came within a whisker of an earthquake-scale upset.

Foolishly, FG stood O'Higgins again in 1973 against Erskine Childers, the son of a man executed without trial by Fine Gael.

Fine Gael has never ever been a serious contender for the Presidency with that exception of 1966.

'Age versus Youth' is not an option in the modern age, nor should it ever have been.

Next year it is committed to holding referenda and (probably) faces a general election.

Landscape Similar

We could also have a voters choice on President later next year.

That landscape is very similar to that between December 1972 and summer 1973.

Back in those few months and in poorer times, we held several referenda, a general election and a Presidential election. We survived.