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The Ó Muircheartaigh For President?

Well the speculation is continuing to gather as to whether or not the much-loved TV sports broadcaster and Irish rights activist Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh will run for the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann. According to the Irish Examiner:

‘Retired GAA broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh has said the President of Ireland should have a strong appreciation for the Irish language.

The Kerry man, who will announce next week whether he intends to run as a candidate in the Presidential election, feels the head of State should have an appreciation for the Irish language and the part it has played in our history and culture.

He said he had been approached by a number of political parties, and planned to take at least a week to consider the matter.’

Well he may well have just got my vote.

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of the Irish language and culture, both at home and abroad, over the last forty years, and enjoys almost universal popularity. In fact he could be described as the Lilly to Gay Byrne’s Poppy (if you get my meaning… ahem). With Gaybo exit stage right (left? right? centre?) the Ó Muircheartaigh seems to be the next big name under the spotlight, though this time with the definite whisper of some realistic political backing behind him.

According to the Irish Times:

‘Presidential candidates require the support of 20 Oireachtas members or four country councils.

A Fianna Fáil spokesman said: “There’s been no contact with Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh,” while a Sinn Féin spokesman said: “We didn’t approach him”.

Independent TD Finian McGrath, who had been co-ordinating Independent Senator David Norris’s aborted campaign to get the signatures of Oireachtas members, could not be contacted.

Mr Ó Muircheartaigh spoke at a Sinn Féin-hosted conference, “Uniting Ireland – Towards a New Republic” in Cork in June.

At that time, he said the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland had helped move towards achieving a united Ireland.

Sinn Féin TD for Donegal North East Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said there was a “growing desire” within the party to enter the contest.

With 14 TDs and three Senators, Sinn Féin would need to enlist the support of three more Oireachtas members to field a candidate or facilitate the nomination of an Independent.’

Hmmm. Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh would certainly be acceptable to most Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil voters, with the added plus of enough cross-party appeal to attract some Labour, Green and even Fine Gael support. The big question though, and it is big, is how Ireland’s thoroughly Anglicised and Anglophone media establishment will react. While up to now most pieces on Ó Muircheartaigh have used words like ‘legend’, ‘beloved’, ‘admired’ and so on there are plenty of Oirish journos who wouldn’t spit on an Irish-speaker if he or she was on fire. In fact a few of them would probably be looking around for a can of petrol.

Surnames with an Ó, Mac, Mag, Ní, Nic, Uí or de are like a red rag to a bull with the regressive set and it is only a matter of time – if Ó Muircheartaigh announces his candidacy – before the knives get pulled out. In fact if you listen carefully you can probably hear the noise of metal on whetstones as we speak.

In Ireland’s century-old low level civil war over language and culture, between the Irish and English speaking communities, Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh may become the next victim – or the next victory.

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