Irish Republican News · August 13, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Gaybo backs away from Presidential ‘coronation’

The 26-County Presidential campaign bordered on absurdity this week when television personality Gay Byrne briefly became favourite to win the election, before confirming he would not be a candidate.

One of Ireland’s foremost TV celebrities, former chat show host ‘Gaybo’ was propelled to the top of the opinion polls after he was touted by the leadership of Fianna Fail as its likely candidate.

Mr Byrne said this [Saturday] morning he had reached the decision after consulting with his family. He told state-run television, for whom he hosted ‘the Late Late Show’ for decades, that he did not believe he was what the Irish people were looking for in a President.

Mr Byrne said there was no particular reason why he had reached his decision but said the plan of a campaign for the Presidency had been “foisted” on him before he knew anything about it.

The previous favourite for October’s President election, Senator David Norris, was forced to withdraw last week following a controversy over his opinions on paedophilia.

In a statement released this afternoon Fianna Fail, said it respected Mr Byrne’s decision to rule himself out of the race and said a decision on whether or not the party would field a candidate for the election and who that might be would not now be taken until next month.

The President of Ireland is largely a ceremonial position, and the successful candidate is encouraged to speak only in very general terms and make only elliptical references to political matters.

Nevertheless, Byrne’s withdrawal has underlined the void among the potential candidates who have so far come forward. It has also fuelled a sense of public desperation over the search for a candidate with the right balance of gravitas, dignity and common touch who could follow in the example of celebrated former President Mary Robinson.

Sinn Fein has not yet selected a candidate, although rumours have abounded that it could name respected long-serving TD Caoimhghin O Caolain or endorse GAA celebrity Mickey Harte. There have also been suggestions that party President Gerry Adams might even put himself forward.

Sinn Fein TD Sean Crowe this week called for presidential voting rights to be extended to northern citizens and to the Irish diaspora.

Deputy Crowe, a member of the Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee in the Dublin parliament, said if this requires a constitutional amendment, then this should be provided for at the earliest opportunity.

“Extending presidential voting rights to Irish citizens living in the Six Counties is a natural outworking of the Good Friday Agreement which enshrines the rights of people in the north to Irish citizenship,” he said.

“The President of Ireland represents all Irish citizens and so all citizens should have the right to decide who the president should be. This should also include the Irish diaspora.

“If this requires a constitutional amendment then this should be put before the people at the earliest opportunity.”

He said Sinn Fein would continue to campaign on this issue.

“At the heart of this campaign is equality. We wan to see all Irish citizens given the right to vote for a president that will represent the whole island of Ireland and all Irish people.

“I would urge all presidential candidates to indicate their position on the extension of voting rights for northern citizens and for the diaspora ahead of the poll taking place in just a few months’ time.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News