Current Affairs Politics

Michael D Higgins Is The Winner. But At What Cost If Peter Casey Is Second?

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?

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10 comments on “Michael D Higgins Is The Winner. But At What Cost If Peter Casey Is Second?

  1. giveusabreak

    And President Bertie unveiled the Bertie Ahearn Memorial Hospital , formerly known as the Mater. That would have been the case if the Celtic Tiger has of continued.

  2. Technically all of the candidates dramatically outperformed the last 56 years of the incumbent being returned unopposed. In 14 years we may have an opportunity to get a data set to compare to this one. Technically speaking.

    Yet SF have got to be quite disappointed with the result. Be interesting to see how this plays out in the run up to LG elections north & south next May. Might even be having GE(s) north and/or south in the next year too.

    Delighted Casey has surfaced the Traveller bigotry in Ireland. Too long has Irish society brushed this bitter prejudice under the rug. The halting site planning permissions fights of the 80s, especially the one that was proposed near our estate, opened my eyes to how many “pillars of the community” were no different from the KKK. Hopefully, this moment is the beginning of resolving this. Not that I pretend to know what the solution looks like.

    • I’d be careful making that assumption, that “bring [a particular prejudice] out in the open” is this great first step towards solving it. It’s probably as likely, if not more likely, to actually make it worse. People who previously didn’t hold such attitudes can be “converted” by more open expression. And the death “under the rug” can be slow-too slow-but most plants thrive on light and oxygen.

      • ar an sliabh

        I’m sorry, perhaps I am misreading your comment, but I can’t think of a single civil rights problem or social injustice that was solved while not being addressed in public. Most civil rights and social injustice movements only obtained large scale support after the public became aware of the magnitude of the problem. Generally, the number of any “converts to the dark side” pales in comparison to those rising up in support of the oppressed. Open expression is the only way to solve these issues, always has been (that is why free speech is so important). Without open expression, there is no discussion. Without discussion, there is no solution, and the problem often ends up in violence. Once it gets violent, it’s public anyway. Casey’s comments and the subsequent “echo” by people of similar disposition is indeed a good first step to the solution. The public denial of LGBT to marry and the then “echo” of those similarly disposed, for example, was the start of the solution here as well. In the end, any folks so inclined to deny others this right along with any “converts” was overcome by those who felt this was unjust. It took some time, but the problem was solved. Had none of this gone public, I don’t think that the outcome would have been the same. Sometimes it takes people on the wrong side of the fence to freely spew their ilk, for the majority to realise just how much of a problem they represent.

  3. You know, it seems these days that every country on earth has either voted for someone or something horrible, or else they’ve narrowly dodged a bullet. You also have that Bolsonaro clown in Brazil-not to mention a major surge of authoritarian military men running at all levels of office promising order in Brazil. Narenda Modi. Marine Le Pen. Duterte.

    I’m truly glad that The Irish Republic has just joined the “dodged a bullet” category, even if that’s Cold Comfort given the situation with The North, and even if a lot of people are still annoyed with President Higgins.

    Because not man countries seem to be getting away without at least the threat. The British probably voted for a “what” rather than a “who”, because they don’t get to vote for any National figure directly.

    It’s pretty devastating to find your country DIDN’T dodge the bullet, I can tell you.

    • ar an sliabh

      You are aware that the Irish President is a mere representative position with virtually no executive power, I hope. No dodging the bullet necessary in that one. In most European countries, the President has no real power.

      • I do understand the difference between a Presidential and a Parliamentary system. But all the same, the last thing I suspect any country in Europe-least of all Ireland-needs right now is even a semi-ceremonial President who acts and talks like Mr. Casey.

        If things get hairier with Brexit, it would seem you’d want a President who is the voice of Sweet Reason.

        Besides having one of these jokers in even a somewhat symbolic role can be bad, because shit tends to flow downhill.

    • True. Hopefully Michael D Higgins, and his team, will take notice of the public disquiet about the handling of public finances by his office. Judging by some social media postings by his close associates, it seems that quite a few think that the vote justified whatever they did in the previous seven-year term and its business as usual.

      Casey was a one-percenter in the race until he hit upon a rhetorical formula that resonated with a section of the electorate. Very similar to a certain Donald J. Otherwise he is an empty vessel. I still reckon it was a special situation and that outside of it he will have no-long traction in Irish politics beyond stirring up some fuss.

      • One gut hunch I’m getting about Casey and at least some of the people who are following him:

        Is it possible that some small subset of Irish citizens have come under the influence of Ayn Rand?

        I can tell you that a lot of Peter Casey’s positions struck me as likely Rand influenced. And it’s not just his positions. I hear it in his choices of words, and his way of phrasing things. If some of his views come across as simply “American” in Ireland, my ears heard something decidedly more specific. I’ve developed a personal radar for Ayn Rand devotees and it was howling while listening to Peter Casey.

        Casey was indeed like #45 (aka “The Mango Mussolini”), in the sense of egging on bigots and fitting a lot of “The Right Winged Populist” criteria. But #45 actually promised a massively expanded welfare state (with low taxes despite that and The Wall. And an era where almost any able bodied “Real American” man or woman could walk into a highly secured well paid job with Pink Cadillac style union benefits. (Somehow accomplished without labor unions.)

        I’m not certain how much you’ve seen in the way of Ayn Rand admirers or fully committed objectivists in Ireland. Or the manner in which just her fiction can influence people (mostly but not exclusively young folk) whether or not thy buy into the doctrines of Objectivism 100%-most of them don’t. We have a joke about Ayn Rand and Tolkien if you would like to hear it.

        There was a time not long ago, when the US was to the Left politically of the UK and even the early Irish Republic in its early days. While the reasons things changed are complicated, I give Ayn Rand a healthy slice of blame.

        If she has devotees in Ireland, I suspect you’d want to know about it and early.

  4. Well, he came second because the media harped on and on about how racist he was when the vast majority of people in this country think travellers being a separate race based on DNA is ridiculous. Especially since apparently we are all post-racial now no?

    But instead of attacking him on the very obvious issues such as his opposition to Irish neutrality and his love of open borders the media tried to attack him on this one issue. How can anyone be surprised he got more votes because of it? No-one truly believes the other candidates would be happy with a halting site opening up next to them.

    Again and again it will be the reaction to populism that gets it through the door, helped in most part by the lack of self-critique among its opposition. Neo-liberals continually think issues have been put to bed which have never been settled. If you don’t think the housing crisis will naturally have an identity element to it,and you are opposed to it, whether it’s demanding stables for horses and whole rows of houses for extended families, or worse, the high numbers of non-nationals on the list; if you can’t see why these issues should agitate the Irish public perhaps you should be supporting the likes of Solidarity, Richard Boyd Barret and co, instead of any nationalist perspective.

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