So, one of the most uneventful, not to say downright lacklustre presidential contests in modern history has delivered no great surprise in the likely reelection of the smug incumbent, Michael D Higgins, and a small surprise with the apparent popularity of his heretofore obscure rival, Peter Casey. The latter, the most mediocre among a field of notably mediocre candidates, gained considerable traction at the tail-end of the campaign by latching on to some controversial subjects, delivering his dog whistle views with all the wit and sagacity of a braying donkey. If you are a candidate for the highest office in the land and a former American-based businessman with his American-infused opinions on social welfare and social responsibility is beating you into a very poor third, fourth, fifth or sixth place in an Irish election, you should probably reconsider your recent choices.
This, of course, includes Liadh Ní Riada, the Sinn Féin nominee and by all accounts an otherwise able and proven politician. However, little of that professional ability was on show during the campaign as she ran a charisma-free show, firmly set to platitudinous soundbite mode. A strategy which left her trailing far behind someone who during most debates was barely capable of stringing a coherent sentence together. One really does despair. The best that can be said, is that Peter Casey benefited from general voter apathy, a low turnout, the lack of a credible candidate to go up against Michael D Higgins (who was certainly vulnerable over questions about his “royal presidency” of Ireland), and his espousing of conservative rhetoric likely to appeal to a subset of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil voters.
All that said, the most bizarre reaction to the Casey vote, which might pass the 20% mark if the exit polls are correct, has come from sections of the press, who are blaming Sinn Féin for the Derry man’s good showing. And how did the republican party do that, you might ask? By daring to challenge the right of Naomh Micheál to another seven years in Áras an Uachtaráin! Yes, that’s right. The Irish media is now arguing the need for elections if it brings forth the wrong type of candidates. Or voters. And, but of course, the likely success of Peter Casey at the ballot has nothing to do with the journalists and reporters who scrambled over each other to get his controversial quotes under their bylines in recent weeks.
Instead of debating why we have such awful candidates at elections maybe we should be debating why we have such a bloody awful press? And why we allowed Michael D Higgins to play the role of a self-entitled Hillary Clinton tribute act to Peter Casey’s late appearing quasi-Trump impression?