Declaring her intention to enter the Presidential race on Monday, Dana said that it is clear that the public want a more “open and fair” nominating process. Whatever your views on the Eurovision winner, it’s hard to argue with that. The system is desperately in need of reform to ensure that candidates from every imaginable background are permitted to enter.
The last day for receipt of nominations is next Wednesday, 28 September, and Dana and comeback kid David Norris are still scrambling for nominations, no doubt envious at the ease with which Martin McGuinness entered the race over the weekend.
The flawed nature of the nomination process is compounded by the fact that 10,000 members of the public signed a petition in support of Davis Norris’ candidacy, despite the controversies that lead to his exit from the field last month.
Yet Norris would struggle to gain the backing of even 40 local councillors, who, let us not forget, are supposed to represent the views of their constituents.
And Norris will certainly struggle to gain the 19 signatures from Oireachtas members that he needs, particularly in light of Fianna Fáil’s decision yesterday not to permit its members to support any candidate, from the Fianna Fáil stable or otherwise.
Nominated candidates regularly stress that the Presidency is “above politics” but party politics has clearly had a role in every single step of the nomination process.
Even Mary Davis, who has proved immensely popular with local authorities around the country, encountered this in her dealings with both councils in Galway.
Both Fine Gael and Labour representatives on Galway City Council opted to abstain from voting on her nomination, while the majority of Fine Gaelers on Galway County Council did so. But at least they didn’t try to block the Special Olympics campaigner’s nomination, which is what could have happened had David Norris’ initial bid not imploded.
It is significant however that three Fine Gael party members on the county council opted to back Mary Davis’ bid, while stressing that they were still throwing their weight behind party candidate Gay Mitchell, because it shows that there is a desire among some elected representatives to give those who want to contest the election the chance to do so.
To borrow that infamous phrase from Dana, “all kinds of everything” are needed in this Presidential election and all shades of candidates should be permitted to contest it. It will take a constitutional referendum to reform the process but it will be worth it in the end, because it should be up to the people, not the political parties, to decide who they want as President.