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Talking about the Presidential Campaign…that Prime Time programme last night. September 29, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin, The Left.

You’ll find it here if you missed it and want to catch up. But Prime Times last night was undeniably of interest to anyone wanting to get a sense of the candidates. The format, individual short interviews oddly enough managed to catch a sense of them, and granted arriving with preconceptions wouldn’t probably see those preconceptions changed, but…

Higgins was good. Very cogent, fluent. And remarkably relaxed. Perhaps too relaxed. He talked about it being necessary that he be ‘authentic’ and ‘be yourself’. And that was grand. But in all honesty he seems… well, whisper it… just a little … boring. In a way, and this was touched on in the interview, he seems like a very traditional President, a pre-Mary Robinson President. It may well be that the citizens of the state will want that at this juncture. And to be honest whether he gets up the nose of Israel or China doesn’t seem to me to be something that will exercise most people.

Top marks too for dropping the name of the President of the General Assembly of the UN as a supporter!

In regard of McGuinness’s appearance – well he’s not boring at all, but that may not be a good thing. It was interesting how relatively fluent his explanation re IRA membership was. The question on a President for 32 counties though some have said it played badly seemed to me to go okay. That said a friend of mine made what I thought was an excellent point today about the McGuinness candidacy which was that partition might actually work out to his favour. Their point was that there was a flip side to the animosity which was that people knew less about the North and if he could remain detached from the technicalities he still presented an attractive candidacy. Certainly he could relax perhaps just a little.

Mary Davis was curious. Smooth, no question about it. Articulate. Perhaps a little too polished. She certainly seemed to protest perhaps a bit too much about being a ‘totally Independent candidate’ and being ‘the only truly Independent candidate at this stage’. An odd claim to make even if this was recorded before Norris won his fourth Council nomination. What of poor old Sean Gallagher [one has the unpleasant suspicion that that is a phrase that will be used again…]. One thing that struck me was how she seemed to falter just a little at the more critical questions. The smile vanished. The tone became a little more abrasive. Richard Crowley’s question on had she ever had to taken on an unpopular cause in her public life was brilliant. I’ve never seen it asked before in any contest.

An oddly evasive performance from Gay Mitchell and suddenly it becomes clear why he’s got problems. He’s running for a government that despite its supposed popularity [and look at the latest polls where both government parties are shedding some support] seems in the face of the recession and the forthcoming Budget seems oddly fragile.

Most fascinating was the issue of his letter of clemency for US death penalty prisoner Hill. His excuse?

‘…so-called Liberals would have left him out…’

Hmmm…not so sure of that. I think it would be more a case of expecting that he’d support others in a similar straits at around the same time who had different viewpoints.

Dana tells us that the ‘people know [her]’. I wonder. Somewhat cruel of Miriam to note that 14 years ago she went before the people and they rejected her. Still, she has a point about how she was the first Independent candidate to get nominated. Interesting to see whether that doorway will be kept open in future years. But it all seemed a bit vague.

Norris struck me as much more combative than was necessary. Even angry. Is this a deliberate tactic? The issue of the extra letters still seems to me to be a bit tangential; though whether he can hold the line on having advice not to publish to them will be interesting. And in that is encapsulated a problem, perhaps a more pertinent problem than that facing McGuinness. Whereas McGuinness has to fend off his membership of the IRA he is able to keep putting 17 years between him and various acts carried out by that organisation. Whereas Norris has letters floating around. Different, more immediate. Problematic.

Sean Gallagher was better to than I’d expected. The problem is that it seemed very vague too. He got somewhat tangled up in issues of trade missions. To be honest I thought he had a point that he didn’t create them, but that a President would assist in their creation. His big problem is he seems underpowered for a run at this point, not being a politician or being political.

I found it a lot more entertaining that I’d expected, and there’s going to be more. Enjoyable too the way the ‘what is your weakness’ question, standby of a million job interviews, was thrown in for some of them. It’s such an artificial formulation, but sure isn’t this all artificial, seven somewhat diverse individuals thrown into the crucible.

Watching it I’d wonder about the outcome.


1. Mark P - September 29, 2011

The whole thing remains a complete waste of time and energy, as are most of the candidates. It’s like the Seanad, only worse. It doesn’t make a blind bit of difference which of these people plays golf and shakes hands for Ireland over the next seven years.

By the way, is there anybody here who actually believes that Martin McGuinness left the IRA in 1974? I don’t actually think that the issue is significant in and of itself, but I’m genuinely interested to see if anyone will put their hands up to that one.


Ghandi - September 30, 2011

“By the way, is there anybody here who actually believes that Martin McGuinness left the IRA in 1974? I don’t actually think that the issue is significant in and of itself, but I’m genuinely interested to see if anyone will put their hands up to that one”.

On sentance he lost his rank and membership, and moves to a different branch of the movement as a prisoner, the correct question is not did he leave but did he apply to rejoin on release.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

Hmmm… that puts a different spin on it. Fair point!


RosencrantzisDead - October 1, 2011

What do you mean by ‘waste of time’?

For example, would a
‘left wing’ candidate


RosencrantzisDead - October 1, 2011

Excuse the above.

What do you mean by ‘waste of time’? Would it make a difference if there were a candidate pushing a left wing analysis? If so, why?

If not, then how is that different from voting for an opposition candidate who is committed to being in opposition? They cannot make a difference in a practical sense but they can support an important issue.


2. Jim Monaghan - September 29, 2011

It is like a new Stepford people, where we get bland and compliant. Oh, for someone stroppy.
Maybe it is part of the IMF/EU dicatat where all that is creative and original in Ireland will disappear to be replaced by a nation which is basically robotic.
What are they for: Answer good things
What are thgey against: Answer: Bad things.
Which is which: No answer, for to define might be divisive.


3. shea - September 29, 2011

thaught mitcheals comment about putting himself though college and with a tone ‘not having DADDY foot the bill’ was interesting. who is he appealing to. the last year hands down FG have lead the field in spin doctoring imo but seems there texting this one in. don’t get it. is there hart not in it with FF out of it. the consequence of marks point the candidates being so bland means jouralists will look for other things to talk about and if FG fall below 10% lot of journalists could make hay out of that. from a spin doctor point of view not a good thing to have your brand be talked about in that way,

mcguinness being in the ra after 74 is a slow boil story if he looked like winning it there would be stuff coming out of everywhere like last week showing he was. with that in mind shinners should be more cheeky and pull the eu into the race.

would guess he was in it. theres no amnasty for anyone who was in it with the GFA mcgeough and price made public comments about there time in it and are inside now off the back of them. guessing thats where mcguinness is comeing from. have been asking the same question over the last few days when mcguinness came up. think alot of people take it with a pinch of salt. people its a problem for aren’t voting for him.


CMK - September 29, 2011

Have a sort of soft spot for Mitchell going back to addressing public meetings which he had arranged where I articulated views diametrically opposed to his and he was nonetheless polite and considerate, where I was expecting a McDowell like savaging.

Also, can ‘Pillar of the the Establishment’ politicians please give this shite a rest about their Da’s being labourers or bus drivers or factory workers or whatever. Impresses nobody and the middle class PR people and handlers who think this line will resonate are seriously misadvising their clients. While Mitchell’s Da might have been a labourer, and Martin’s Da a bus driver, the policy positions both Mitchell, Martin, McGuinness & Higgins are committed to are designed to ensure that contemporary labourers, bus drivers, factory workers are facing far harsher living conditions and prospects for their children than Mitchell et al could possibly imagine.

We don’t want to know if Mitchell’s Da was a labourer or not; we want to know if he’s in favour of third level fee (Yes, most likely).

We don’t want to know if Martin’s Da was a bus driver or not; we want to know if he favours protecting and enhancing the living standards and increasing the earnings of workers who were covered by JLCs,. (No, most likely, for all kinds of reasons that the Sindo would endorse).


4. shea - September 29, 2011

its messing with preceptions all right. its the flaw in representitive democracy. try and win a sentiment as apposed to an argument. pr can be a good system but does its not an advatorial system, it was designed for compromise. not that the english system is a uthopia. this constitutional review thats coming up and the progressive groups should be drawing up arguments for a diect democracy or some confrontational system or something else that incurages voters to partisipate with arguments. probably won’t win it but get it out there our thinking on a national level is restricted by the system we choose to comunally debate national in.
on some level though i appreciate the tricks the media. every few weeks were gaurunteed a clip on the news of kenny cycleing a bike puting a basket ball in a net or having a puck around with the hurls. i don’t think the jenny from the blocks will do mitchel much favours. didn’t do martin much.


5. rockroots - September 29, 2011

Walking home this evening I briefly paid attention to the posters for Higgins, Davis & Mitchell and it just struck me how completely inane and meaningless they were. I mean, obviously that’s what election posters are like at the best of times, but the lame hands-out pose, the ‘walking into action’, the crappy ‘respecting the past and the future’ or whatever… it’s just so completely bland and uninspiring. Presumably that reflects the fact that the candidates can’t offer anything because of the limits of the role. Likewise, I suspect the most interesting part of the campaign will prove to have been the nomination stage, and the next few weeks could be really quite dull as the candidates struggle to find anything worthwhile to say and it settles down to a striaght-forward popularity contest.

Prime Time: Davis was overly slick, having never seen her speak before I wonder if this will be a feature of her campaign; Poor Oul Gallagher was more likeable in person than I would have expected, though he didn’t have much idea about what the president does; Norris was very tetchy, probably because he didn’t get to talk about anything other than the letters (he performed better on Matt Cooper’s show today); Dana was her usual softly-spoken inoffensive self; Higgins looked frailer than I expected, but I’m reluctant to hold that against him. Did I forget anyone?


ejh - September 29, 2011

I mean, obviously that’s what election posters are like at the best of times, but the lame hands-out pose, the ‘walking into action’, the crappy ‘respecting the past and the future’ or whatever… it’s just so completely bland and uninspiring

For what it’s worth, a very similar observation was being widely made during the Spanish local elections in May. Then all of a sudden the indignados movement kicked off.

Not that I want to get your hopes up or anything.


6. Seamus - September 29, 2011

Attended the debate at UCD which involved Mitchell, Higgins, Gallagher and Davis.

Davis and Gallagher are full of clichés. Gallagher even told the student audience they are ‘the future’, which I found particularly cringeworthy. Davis was similarly robotic and sticking to a formula, with very little personality to latch on to.

Mitchell came across as a politician, just a complete politician. Very wooden and for some strange reason stressed and stressed the limitations of the presidency. That is one thing you should not do, basically tell the audience it’s all abit pointless but you want it anyway. One weird thing was his first few sentences. They amounted to a withering attack on ‘socialism’, mentioning the berlin wall and how his early experience of socialism was the local champagne socialist having a swimming pool at the back of their house. It was bizarre, I can only imagine it was directed at Michael D.

Michael D gave a great display and the crowd, which I don’t think would have been inclined to someone like him, reacted very positively. He spoke with passion and banged the table a few times, people like to see that, not someone saying not to expect miracles from the presidency.

On the televised presidential special, again I thought Michael D did well. Very articulate, as noted perhaps a bit boring..but I think it suits him at this stage to let SF and FG to mudsling at each other so he can sweep up transfers from all directions.

The question to Davis about non-popular causes was a cracker, really good question that wasn’t adequately dealt with. Mitchell was better than he usually is, but that isn’t saying much. McGuinness was decent, but this media onslaught is bound to have an effect.

Norris, I believe, is a really likable fella. But I must say he came across very poorly. He came across very angry, when I thought getting on the ballot paper would have calmed him a bit. But he’s visably shaken and tired, it has taken its toll on him. What is remarkable is that despite all this, I think Norris will retain a significant % of the vote.

I think Michael D is in pole position, transfer-friendly would be an understatement.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

Nice analysis and account Seamus, thanks.


7. Martin McGuinness. The People’s Choice? « An Sionnach Fionn - September 30, 2011

[…] panic gripping the Irish elites, and the reasons why Martin McGuinness may become the people’s president: “Last Monday, the Irish state paid €1.465 billion (about $2 billion) to senior unsecured […]


8. Terry McDermott - September 30, 2011

‘By the way, is there anybody here who actually believes that Martin McGuinness left the IRA in 1974? I don’t actually think that the issue is significant in and of itself, but I’m genuinely interested to see if anyone will put their hands up to that one.’

Robbie Smyth of SF on Vincent Browne the other night said that the question had never entered his head- he had never thought about it nin his life. Why is it that SF ask’s otherwise intelligent people to come over as fools about their leader’s IRA records? Otherwise nobody would be that bothetred if McGuinness said he had been in it, but pursued peace.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

He doesn’t put any clear water between himself and the IRA. He’s never disavowed the IRA as an entity, even if he’s condemned individual actions. And in a way I understand Smyth’s point… I’ve never once thought about it myself over the years, my assumption has been that yes he was a member throughout the conflict but that it was irrelevant whether he admitted it or not. In fact I can see the importance and utility of him not doing so for the sake of the process.

So I wouldn’t see it as stupidity, guile – sure, but logical too.


9. rockroots - September 30, 2011

“Dana… has a point about how she was the first Independent candidate to get nominated.”

Apart from Patrick McCartan in 1945, of course, though that wasn’t through the councils.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

Ooops… my mistake. You’re dead right.


10. Budapestkick - September 30, 2011

The full length Mary David poster looks utterly bizarre. The ghastly shade of pink makes her look like Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter films. As for Mitchell stressing how Daddy didn’t pay for his college education someone should ask him about who paid for Varadkar and Coveney’s education.


fergal - September 30, 2011

Is it possible that this government has more ministers that went to fee-paying schools than the dreaded Tories across the water?Doesn’t the new Minister for Children send or sent hers to Belvedere.I’m sure this will enlighten her as to the daily grind Austerity Ireland is for most people.Just a thought.


Dr.Nightdub - October 1, 2011

“The full length Mary David poster looks utterly bizarre.”

Someone I know described it as the political equivalent of an ad for Special K


11. Terry McDermott - September 30, 2011

‘In fact I can see the importance and utility of him not doing so for the sake of the process.’

The thing is, he is running for president of this state. As such he has to expect to be asked hard questions. His, and Smyth’s reaction to some of these these questions has been ‘why are you picking on us?’
This is not the same as SF running in a general election, or running candidates like Mary-Lou, Pearse Doherty or whatever. The presidency is a symbolic role.
Martin McGuinness’s while political career was based on him being an IRA man: that was how republicans and everyone else saw him. He always delivered the ‘Army’ speech at Ard Feisanna for instance. The SF rank and file always saw him as a ‘RA man. So when an SF spokesperson, of plus 20 years membership, says they have never thought about when Martin might have been in the IRA…well, sorry, but it doesn’t pass muster. In fact its an insult to people’s intelligence.
On the subject of this state, I remember McGuinness at the 1996 Ard Fheis in Dublin casually dismissing Dublin delegates critical of the leadership with something along the lines of ‘it’s nice of our Dublin comrades to lecture us from the six-counties about our struggle.’ Partitionist or what?
That said, I would think he will do very well, as he has a largely positive public image post-GFA. But for anyone with any knowledge of the Troubles, to have to accept bullshit about a life dedicated to peace is priceless. And as for comparisons with Mandela.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

But why is this state so different? And why the Presidency, a position with less executive authority than he has as DFM? And at no point have I said he shouldn’t be asked hard questions, it’s going on day after day to the point of near absurdity. Just I have no expectation of him providing necessarily hard answers.

Not to be glib, but the process isn’t finished. Already Arlene Foster has been making noises off because he’s gone for the Presidency and that perhaps demonstrates that this will be used to stir up trouble. But the logic of the process is that the past becomes immaterial if not irrelevant.

Of course he hasn’t had a life dedicated to piece [and in fairness did he compare himself to Mandala? Though also in fairness Mandala made it pretty clear over the years who he considered his comrades in Ireland to be]. And as I said above my assumption and I presume most peoples was that he was on the AC until very late in the day. But again, I’m not pushed if he doesn’t come out and say he was.

Because in a way all politics is bullshit. You know, I know it. In a way that’s in part why R ÓB and RSF and later 32CSM tried to eschew it. But that doesn’t work either. So there’s a game and part of it is smoothing over or ignoring difference and contention. To be honest I find the fact that manyin the South are exercised by this, whereas there’s an expectation that the DUP or the UUP must simply accept it, is very telling. I’m no fan of either but they walked the walk and complained a lot less than the Irish establishment is now.

So evasions and rhetorical stupidities are to my mind a small price to pay for getting on for two decades of very low level violence on this island – and given that none of us are forced to vote for him and he’s unlikely to win and seeing as those questions are asked day in day out isn’t your complaint really that he doesn’t come out with the answers you want?


JP - October 1, 2011

Some time ago Malachi O’Doherty made the point that it would be entirely legitimate for the northern media to turn every interview with a SF minister into a ‘what did you do in the IRA’ wrestling match but that it would very quickly become tedious and pointless and that audiences would not thank them for it.


WorldbyStorm - October 1, 2011

That’s it.


LeftAtTheCross - September 30, 2011

McGuiness’s campaign video here:

Portraying him as best mates with Obama, Clinton, Brown (noy Blair strangely enough) is supposed to impress I suppose. Nothing anti-establishment in the message whatsoever, just reinforces the notion that SF is the new FF, a safe pair of hands for the status quo.


Mark P - September 30, 2011

8 out of 10 Imperialist Warmongers prefer Martin McGuinness. How utterly nauseating.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

Are you physically nauseated by it? 🙂


Mark P - September 30, 2011

It’s a nausea of the soul. Every time that video repeats that photograph of Clinton slapping McGuinness on the back, I can feel ectoplasmic vomit trying to get out.

On a positive note, the video should at least clear a few things up for anyone still hoping that the McGuinness candidacy is going to be radical.


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

I was concerned for you welfare… and perhaps particularly your soul’s welfare 😉

Hey, I thought of a great joke re your warmongers crack, and not at your expense either. But perhaps best to leave it unsaid.


Mark P - September 30, 2011

Out with it!


WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2011

🙂 no no no…


12. que - September 30, 2011


In fairness your repeated attacks on SF reads like sour grapes aimed at a party which is steaming ahead while your party the socialists are well pretty much where they have always been: failing to make an impact where it counts – with ordinary people.

take a rennie for the ectoplasm or call ghostbusters or whatever.


LeftAtTheCross - September 30, 2011

Que, while MarkP is well able to speak for himself, and I’d agree with your comment regarding the dodgy-ness of tone in many of his posts, I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss the content of the point he’s making about SF’s ease in cosying up to the establishment. Of course the point you make about lack of traction with the masses is a valid one, but given the choice of making easy connections with a populist message that ultimately leads to more of the status quo delivered by SF/FF-nua, or the more difficult path of raising class consciousness with a view to transforming society and disestablishing capitalism, well which is the more worthwhile project really?


Mark P - September 30, 2011

It’s not an athletic competition, where various people and groups are fighting to do the same thing. To borrow LATC’s phrase Sinn Fein’s project and the Socialist Party’s project are completely different from each other. I have no “sour grapes” about the rise of a new Fianna Fail, because I have no desire to create my own new Fianna Fail. What I have is exactly the same root and branch hostility to the new Fianna Fail as I have for the old one.

The Socialist Party has been making modest progress over the last couple of years. In electoral terms, we’ve gone from a party with a few councillors, to a party with an MEP, two TDs and a couple of extra councillors. The organisation has grown on the ground, with new branches being established. It’s been central to attempts to get a trade union rank and file body off the ground and will be central to the anti-water tax movement (which SF has already sold out). We’re now part of a wider alliance of the real left, which gives all of us a greater capacity to have an impact. Small beer in the greater scheme of things, and nobody is getting carried away. But progress nonetheless.

I note that you don’t actually say anything that contradicts the content of my last post. That video is centrally about the relationship McGuinness has with warmongers. There isn’t the slightest tinge of radicalism to it.


Budapestkick - September 30, 2011

As crude as it is to boil in down to electoral terms, we were able to get an MEP elected with a fraction of the resources enjoyed by the other parties contesting that seat. If we were unable to make a connection with ordinary people then I doubt 80,000 would have voted for our candidate (more than voted for Mary Lou). Unless you think those people were not ordinary? Frankly, when I joined the party the idea that we could have done that wouldn’t even have entered my head.


13. MARTIN McGUINNESS: LA SCELTA DEL POPOLO? | The Five Demands - October 2, 2011

[…] Martin McGuinness. The People’s Choice? (An Sionnach Fionn) Irish journalist and media lecturer Harry Browne writes in CounterPunch on the presidential election, the panic gripping the Irish elites, and the reasons why Martin McGuinness may become the people’s president: […]


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