Charismatic candidates add spice to the Irish Presidential elections

Martin McGuinness

David Norris

The Irish Presidential Elections will be dominated by charismatic candidates including Senator David Norris and Northern Ireland’s deputy leader Martin McGuinness

News of the forthcoming Irish Presidential Election has been spiced up this week [September 18th 2011] with stories of Martin McGuinness and David Norris. For rather different reasons, neither name yet appears on the official list of candidates.

Martin McGuinness

The declaration of intent by Martin McGuinness [September 16th, 2011] came as a surprise even to political commentators

The surprise quickly turned to an appreciation that the move was a politically shrewd one on the part of his party, Sinn Fein:

If Martin McGuinness makes it to Aras an Uachtarain [the Irish seat of Government] it will mark one of the most remarkable political journeys possible in a lifetime … When he joined the Provisional IRA [Irish Republican Army] around 1970 … he could have been court-martialled for even talking about contesting elections. The Irish State and all its institutions were looked on as treasonous.

Now that is all water under the bridge. Instead of a backdrop of bombs, bullets and threats he goes into this election with Rev David Latimer’s description of him as “one of the great leaders of modern times” fresh in the public’s mind. [This refers to a story [9th Sept 2011] of a prominent Protestant cleric invited to Sinn Fein’s annual conference and publically praising McGuinness’s efforts as a Statesman].

Suddenly Sinn Fein [McGuinness’s party associated with the IRA’s the struggles for a United Ireland,and a major player in the peace process] no longer seems the edgy or dangerous choice it once did to southern {i.e. Republic of Ireland] voters.

A wider political story

A few weeks later, McGuinness announced his intentions to stand as President of Ireland. It became easier to see the David Latimer story for its wider political implications.

David Norris: will he, won’t he?

The second ‘might be’ candidate is former front-runner, Senator David Norris [Independent]. He has recently become the centre of a blogging storm .

Norris is widely regarded as a charismatic figure, and an openly gay civil rights campaigner. His withdrawal from the race has been attributed to a clemency letter he wrote to Israeli authorities on behalf of his former partner Ezra Nawi, who had been convicted for having sex with a 15-year-old boy. A variation of this suggests he was politically damaged by remarks he made about underage sex with boys.

At the time of writing [Sept 20th 2011] his re-emergence as a candidate remains unconfirmed.

The betting

Betting is still strongest on the two confirmed candidates (who have not even been mentioned in this post). Michael Higgins (Labour) is a near odds-on front runner; Gay Mitchell (Fine Gael) trails, and is only marginally ahead of McGuinness, and the still undeclared Norris.

The downside of charisma

Charismatic leadership has the potential to carry forward a vision or cause. Such leaders have been associated with great transformational movements particularly in global politics. They also attract fierce opposition.

While theorists talk of a post-charismatic era, the charismatic mode remains an influential force for social and political change. Martin McGuinness makes it clear he intends to stand as a candidate for a United Ireland. Controversy will rage over the time he fought for that cause as a member of the IRA.

7 Responses to Charismatic candidates add spice to the Irish Presidential elections

  1. […] Charismatic candidates add spice to the Irish Presidential elections ( […]

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  4. john davids says:

    honestl I think they are pretty good candidates.

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