Oh no. Oh please. It’s a bit like Hubert Humphrey all over again. Humphrey, you probably remember, was a US presidential candidate back in the middle of the twentieth century. He was known as the Happy Warrior because just when people thought he’d packed it in, hey, there he was again, bouncing on-stage, still smiling. Ditto Gay Byrne. When he quit the Late Late Show the assumption was, that was it. But oh bless my soul no no no. Oh not at all, not at all, NOT. AT. ALL. Gaybo kept doing guest appearances and special one-offs and TV series where he asked people what was the Meaning of Life. And then he was the Roads Tsar. And now he’s considering running for President of Ireland. Con-sid-er-ING.
If he does run, that means the starter’s sheet will show two Gays (Byrne and Mitchell) and three people connected with the arts - Michael D Higgins (poet and philosopher), Dana (if she runs – Eurovision Song Contest winner) and Gaybo (wife Kathleen Watkins once a harpist). Which leaves Gay Mitchell out in the cold, except his story about his mother rearing nine children and getting up at four in the morning to clean offices warms the cockles of not just your heart but his as well. Mind you, Gay Mitchell’s mammy rearing nine and cleaning offices has as much to do with his suitability for the Aras job as my father’s being hired out at Strabane Hiring Fair would have if I applied for a job as an astronaut, but my word, it’s a funny old world, is it not? Fun-ee. Old. WORLD.
OK, decision time. Who’s going to win, now that Norris has been squeezed out and all is changed, changed utterly? Well, I’ve a soft spot for Dana because she was once just a wee Derry girl with a gap in her teeth and a nice voice, but the southern electorate won’t wear her. For three reasons: she’s a traditional Catholic, she’s a Northerner and she’s a woman, and they’ve had one of those up in the Aras for the past fourteen years, and they’ll be damned if they’ll have another. Gay Mitchell? A nice man no doubt but since his own party were, um, what shall we say, tepid about him running, it looks bad. Michael D? A grand twinkly wee man, but he probably peaked when Minister for the Arts with the Saw Doctors singing about ‘Michael D rockin’ ‘em in the Dail’. Besides, he keeps saying things like “As a candidate, I offer a vision of a radically inclusive citizenship, in a creative society, worthy of a real republic – making us proud to be Irish in the world,” and most people stop listening around the word ‘inclusive’ and go to see if there’s some beer in the fridge.
Now before you start shouting, yes, I do know there are other good decent people running for President, in fact they’re so good and decent I can’t remember their names and I’ll bet you can’t either inside the next three seconds, one, two, three, there, what did I tell you? Which leaves us with (possibly) Gaybo. The man who was so "completely unpolitical" he couldn’t shake Gerry Adams’s hand. The man who lined up four or more opponents to give the Sinn Féin president a verbal mugging, only here, didn’t the Late Late audience started applauding Adams’s every word. The man whose radio show presented the North’s years of conflict as Up There and in a way that made quite a few of us Up Here groan and throw stuff at the tranny.
But let’s be brave and face the future. If Gaybo runs it’s perfectly possible that by Christmas we could all be talking about President Byrne. As things stand, the pollsters say he’d walk it. But maybe – let’s be optimistic – maybe out there, there is a man or woman getting ready to enter the race, a candidate who will look the 1916 centenary in the eye and talk about the 32-county Ireland Pearse and Connolly hoped they would buy with their lives. Oh, please, say such a one is waiting in the wings. Otherwise we could all be facing a full seven years of Gaybo. Or even fourteen. Merciful hour. Mer. Ci. Ful. HOUR.