After McAleese, the list is long but one man would be good for a laugh

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese is donating a number of ball gowns to a charity auction. This alerted me to the prospect of life after her presidency when it ends in 2011.

Bookies have to be forward-thinking. So it’s time to start previewing the runners and riders. Given our straitened economic circumstances, maybe we should avoid the cost of an election. I want to prompt a debate on who might be the “agreed” choice.

The requirements for the job are: availability, substantial ego, suitable amounts of gravitas, oratory, likeability, electability, cúpla focal, half-decent CV, firm handshake and a willingness to travel the world.

The contemporary mood of the nation is reflected in our popular choice for this office — we pick whoever has the right combination to match the times that are in it, depending on who applies for the job.

Speculation has surrounded possible candidates who have not denied their interest. These include Bertie Ahern, John Bruton, Brian Crowley, Mary White, Eamon Ryan and David Norris. These are indeed worthy choices.

Ahern and Bruton represent yesteryear. While they will have their loyal party political supporters, they may not capture the imagination of our impoverished Celtic Cubs.

Mary Robinson elevated the office. Her record on human rights and subsequent role in the UN represented a high point in our noble aspirations. The two obvious candidates to follow this path of sainthood are Bono and Bob Geldof. If we butcher our overseas development aid budget, it’s inappropriate to highlight our ignominy by appointing them to represent us. They are too worthy for us — not. Tax exiles need not apply.

If we’re looking for drama and excitement, let’s turn to our luvvies. The media provides an array of talent for consideration (This must be limited to the broadcast media as the print sector is dismissed on grounds of insufficient ego).

My shortlist includes Gaybo, Marian Finucane, Pat Kenny, Gerry Ryan, George Hook, Vincent Browne, Eamon Dunphy, Joe Duffy, Ryan Tubridy and George Lee. Sorry, I forgot the pay scale. The sacrifice would be too great to ask of any of them.

By 2011 some of our present party leaders may be available. Brian Cowen merits serious consideration on the basis of his singing talents. While I would describe it as more karaoke than cabaret, we could entertain foreign dignitaries at low cost.

On the other hand, his version of My Way might be too much for our diplomatic corps. Enda Kenny looks younger with every passing day; he may be under age by 2011. If he is to be in the Phoenix Park by then, he would surely prefer Farmleigh (Taoiseach’s residence).

A captain of industry to represent our post-recession (hopefully) recovery mood? They might even do the job for free as a selfless pro bono act of philanthropy. The job of our next president could be to act as an overseas sales rep drumming up business for the country. Official trips to Japan sponsored by Denny’s sausages, accredited State visits subsidised by Baileys and Guinness. The list of eminent tycoons is endless. Sir Anthony O’Reilly, Dr Michael Smurfit, Fergal Quinn and Dermot Desmond are but some of the candidates.

A more racy approach? Perhaps Ben Dunne, Michael O’Leary, Bill Cullen or Denis O’Brien would qualify.

However, I reckon by 2011 our friends in government will have raised personal tax rates to a level where these may all be foreign domiciles.

Perhaps it’s a prerequisite nowadays to be a woman. Mná na hÉireann provide ample possibilities — Mary Davis, Olivia O’Leary, Gillian Bowler, Terry Prone, Mairéad McGuinness, to name but a few. We’ve had three terms with a female president. At the risk of being a misogynist, I think it’s time for a change.

Sport may provide the answer. The heady days of Jack Charlton’s odyssey gave birth to our modern Irishness. A sporting ambassador resident in the Áras? Roy Keane springs to mind as a feisty advocate on our behalf. I think we have had only one presidential resignation. Could we trust Keano not to quit on us at our darkest moment?

One of our hurling or football greats could serve. Kevin Heffernan, Babs Keating, Jimmy Barry Murphy, Mick O’Dwyer. But don’t forget the problems the Late Late Show had in compiling their GAA 125th anniversary programme guest list. Tribal intercounty rivalry and personality jealousy mean that any GAA figure would only cause a row. Pádraig Harrington, Eddie Macken, Paul McGrath, Eamon Coghlan, Michelle de Brún, Sonia O’Sullivan all have claims to our highest office. On reflection a sports star, singer or actor is tokenism and too glib.

Last week’s news about the additional special pay awards for university professors was outrageous. Most of them lecture only about six hours a week. Their “research” is unaccountable. No one from academia need apply. Similarly, the judiciary don’t tick any boxes.

The modern way to resolve our conundrum might be through a reality TV show. A Celebrity Big Brother competition? We could assemble the glitterati in the house and vote them off one by one. The surviving candidate could get the job.

House mates? Nell McCafferty is an automatic inclusion for her contribution to modern art. While no oil painting, her nude portrait will stand the test of time.

Gerald Kean could host legendary Áras parties with Lisa. “Mammy” O’Rourke and Dana have to be included. For eye-candy we can choose from Rosanna Davidson, Pippa O’Connor, Kenny Egan or Brian O’Driscoll.

It’s vital to have a Mr Bad to complete the cast — Seánie Fitzpatrick and Seán Dunne are automatic qualifiers. I would include Senator Eoghan Harris for proper commotion.

ALTERNATIVELY, we could rectify our historical wrongs and appoint a president from a geographical area of neglect. While I understand Cork is the rightful capital of the country, it’s the North I had in mind. Gerry Adams is a real possibility. Regrettably, his profile is just too low at the moment for him to be considered credible. John Hume deserves the role but previously turned it down. On reflection, Mary McAleese is a Belfast woman, so we should return the role to the South.

I have nearly exhausted all our options. There are other miscellaneous worthy contestants: Dick Spring, Louis Walsh, Prof Ed Walsh, Declan Ganley, Alan Dukes, Seamus Heaney, Eddie Hobbs or even Shane McGowan. You pays your money and takes your chances — Celtic Bookmakers will price them all up.

We need a visionary who can encapsulate all of the above, a dynamo who can entertain the nation with a laugh and yet represent us with distinction.

The answer has been staring me in the face. A multifaceted communicator, a household name, a sparkling wit, youthful vigour, even good looking... who can this be? Oliver Callan.

Let’s make Nob Nation the embodiment of our national mood. Disregard the begrudgers. Dustin may have been rubbish in Eurovision but our Oliver can lead us forward to a bright new era.

PS: Next week I’ll be serious again, serving up the most depressing prognosis yet of our pitiful politics and evaporating economy.

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