A blueprint for becoming the next president of Ireland

Should you be blessed with the confidence and competence to consider yourself a suitable fit for the role, here are some of the previous office holders’ credentials, writes Joyce Fegan.

If you’re ever looking to get a bit of publicity in Ireland, deciding to run for president isn’t a bad way to go about it.

Seriously, you could go viral on Twitter if you annoy the right people. You may even spawn a hashtag. Stranger things have happened.

You’ll be guaranteed plenty of time on the airwaves, no matter your gender, and your face and name will be splashed across all of the papers.

This is especially a good idea if you’re, say, I don’t know, a business person, maybe even a businessman, with lots of different interests and who understands the importance of networking and profile-building in order to balance the books, increase brand awareness, and even attract investors.

Now, it doesn’t technically matter if you don’t really see yourself parked up in the Park, it’s all publicity, as they say — publicity that can be stoked up in the run-up to an election and then stored away like surplus grain for

future endeavours, for life after your unsuccessful Áras bid.

Now men of business aside, these presidential bids (let’s call them publicity bids for the time being), are also useful for those who have no earthly intention of actually acting as the Head of State, but who have an “agenda”, they want airing.

Say you happen to be of a certain orthodoxy or of a particular political leaning, and the leaning is such that quotes about it usually ends up on the cutting-room floor, only because the lawyers or experts were in — a publicity bid might just be an excellent vehicle to get your message out there.

“Why are you running for President of Ireland?” Marian Finucane will ask you, and you can reply: “I’m running for President to make Ireland carbon-neutral and plastic-free,” or “I want to be the President that gets Ireland out from under the oppressive rule of the European Union”.

Whatever your agenda, it doesn’t matter too much, because you’ll still get it plenty of airtime through your publicity bid and if you ever did make it to Phoenix Park, worry not because, thanks to Articles 12, 13, and 14 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, you won’t ever have to act on any of your promises.

A run for the Áras might also suit those looking to flog tickets to a show, shift a few books, or re-energise their personal brand if they’ve spent a considerable amount of time abroad, like enough not to have paid any taxes here for a while.

One last little tip: A really useful way to drum up publicity is to go with the drip-feed reveal effect — think Steve Jobs and the old iPhone launches.

You leak snippets of information here and there to hungry journalists. Suddenly you’re on everyone’s lips. Will he? Won’t he?

“I saw his face on posters when I was collecting the Mass booklets for my wedding in the local printers,” the anonymous source in the newspaper article will say.

You can come out then and neither confirm, nor deny it. Curiosity is the nature of our beast, the speculation will drive the electorate, the editors, the shopkeepers and the water-cooler colleagues mad.

But say you really are considering running for President of Ireland, and not for the publicity the race might

afford you but, you know, to actually be Uachtaráin na hÉireann, what traits should you possess?

Since the creation of the office in 1938, we, the people of Ireland, have directly elected nine different candidates to the highest office in our land; seven have been men and two have been women.

The people of Ireland have a particular taste when it comes to presidents.

Should you be blessed with the confidence and competence to consider yourself a suitable fit for the role, here are some of the previous office holders’ credentials, which include time spent as ministers, prime ministers, attorney generals, and university professors.

  • Douglas Hyde (1938-1945): A senator, speaker of several languages and university professor;
  • Seán T O’Kelly (1945-1959): A TD, a government minister several times over and a tánaiste;
  • Éamon de Valera (1959-1973): A revolutionary, founder of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach;
  • Erksine Chidlers (1973-1974): A TD, a government minister multiple times, and another tánaiste;
  • Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh (1974-1976): A barrister, the youngest ever attorney general at 35 and the youngest appointee to the Supreme Court in 1953 at 50;
  • Patrick Hillery (1976-1990): A medical doctor, a TD, a minister for eduction among other portfolios and EU Commissioner for Social Affairs;
  • Mary Robinson (1990-1997): A barrister, senator, and human rights activist, instrumental in decriminalising homosexuality;
  • Mary McAleese (1997-2011): A barrister and a professor of law;
  • Michael D Higgins (2011-present): An academic, a poet, a speaker of several languages, a TD, a senator, and another human rights activist.

Credentials aside, because the Irish don’t vote on CV alone, here are a handful of quotes used to describe some of our previous presidents.

Mr Hillery was described as being “modest”, “unassuming”, being “independent of thought”, and possessing both “dignity” and “integrity”. Mr Ó Dálaigh was considered “intellectually brilliant” and as having a “brilliant legal mind”. Ms McAleese was dubbed a “champion of equality”. Ms Robinson was named “Ireland’s most inspirational woman”.

And lastly here are just some of the ways their presidencies were described: Mr Hyde was known for his

religious tolerance and inclusivity; Mr Childers’ intention for the office was to “not create division” but to “encourage enlightened examination”, and Ms McAleese was known for “building bridges”.

If you still feel up to task and possess any of the above characteristics or

credentials, all you’ll need to officially enter the publicity — sorry presidential — race is either the backing of four local authorities or 20 members of the Oireachtas.

We will be going to the polls on October 26, to vote for our next president, the tenth President of Ireland, and who knows, in this climate of unpredictability, it could be you.


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