The date is set for the election of Uachtarán na hÉireann – October 26th. Different people (Seán Gallagher, Gemma O’Doherty, Kevin Sharkey, Peter Casey etc.) are trying to get nominations to be candidates. Presidential elections offer people the opportunity to think about the kind of country they would like, unlike a general election which is more partisan and about bread and butter issues.
Presidential elections provide the opportunity for an intelligent discussion about the type of society that Ireland should be.
If I were to be a presidential candidate, these would be the things that I would have as themes:
1. Reaching out to unionists, building bridges like President Mary McAleese did. Things are going to change rapidly in Ireland in the next 20 years when unionists become a minority in the north. Nationalists must reach out and cherish unionists as Brexit, Scottish independence and becoming a minority in the north will affect them adversely.
2. Building bridges with the EU – Ireland needs to reorient herself in Europe once the UK leaves the EU. We need to find new allies and engage more with other EU Member States. Unfortunately, many people in the EU are clueless about Ireland so the president could be the principal ambassador for Ireland using the soft power of culture to make new friends in the EU and around the world.
3. Promoting the Irish language – for the first time in more than a century the census results show that the number of speakers of Irish has decreased. There is an urgent need for someone to show leadership. The president is well suited to doing this as the Irish language is not a political issue and it is something that has been traditionally a feature of the presidency. Presidents Hyde, Ó Ceallaigh, de Valera and Ó Dálaigh all used Irish as their working language in Áras an Uachtaráin. This should be continued.
4. Being a champion of volunteering – Irish society would crumble without the efforts of volunteers in communities. By volunteering in sports clubs, youth clubs, parish committees, tidy town groups etc, volunteers make Ireland a better place. They need to be recognized and rewarded for their work.
5. Men’s mental health – mental and emotional health for men is a huge problem. As a young man, I think that more needs to be done to help men cope with emotional problems and their mental health. Getting men talking and helping each other is the way to improve mental health.
6. Recognizing the role of the defence forces – the president is the Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces. The army and naval service often operate without much attention or recognition. The president should be their main cheerleader.
Let’s see what the candidates will have as their themes. Some of them have bizarre ideas as to what they think that they could do as president. It smacks of not nothing what the role of President of Ireland is.
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