Jason OMahony - Irish political blogger, Irish politics, EU politics

An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Illegitimate President.

Posted by Jason O on Aug 16, 2011 in Irish Politics, Occasional Guide to Irish Politics |

The Aras: Where our Florida style president lives.
The Aras: Where our Florida style president lives.

The elction was clean. He won a clear majority of the votes, after preferences were distributed, and his opponents have conceded and rung to congratulate him. Ireland has elected a new head of state. Everything should be hunky-dory.

Except for the fact that the most popular candidate was barred from the ballot paper by the political establishment. Except that he got a smaller first preference than polls indicated the barred candidate would have received. In short, he’s the first Irish president ever elected despite the fact that he didn’t beat a more popular candidate. Can anyone name the more popular candidate barred from the ballot in the Robinson or McAleese elections? Probably not, because there weren’t any.

He is the legal president. But he is not legitimate, because we have never had a more popular candidate actively campaigning and barred from putting his name before the people before. He deserves legal recognition. But does he deserve our loyalty?

Doesn’t matter, his supporters say. He was duly elected under the rules set out in the constitution. They are, of course, correct. He is the legal president, according to the constitution.

The same way George W. Bush was deemed the legally elected president in 2000 by the US Supreme Court. He got less votes than the other guy too. 


Aug 16, 2011 at 12:43 pm

But he is not legitimate, because we have never had a more popular candidate actively campaigning and barred from putting his name before the people before.

This would be David Norris who withdrew himself from the race I take it?

He isn’t barred from getting a nomination. He has stopped looking for one. People cannot be forced into the presidential election.

Jason O
Aug 17, 2011 at 5:45 am

Think he would have dropped out if he was on the ballot paper? And leading in the polls AFTER the scandal broke? Really?

Aug 17, 2011 at 10:51 am

This is not the only thing that needs fixing in our Constitution. The entire function and purpose of the President should be re-evaluated. I don’t place much value on a figurehead, nor would I like to have an office with as much power as in the US. Thus, I am equally in favour of empowering the President further, and also in abolishing the role. I would be interested in hearing your views on this, Jason.

Aug 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Haven’t read your blog for a few weeks while on holiday and am amazed how bad it’s got in that time. Obama the centrist and Norris the people’s president. There is a process for nominating someone to become President – you may not like that process. There is a process for changing that process called an amendment to the Constitution. Otherwise we could end up with Jedward as President. How you can continue to support Norris after his behaviour re child abuse is beyond me. Did Norris ever report his ex to the Irish civil authorities (Gardai or HSE) after his conviction in Israel to investigate if he was up to anything while in Ireland or did he “cover it up”?

Jason O
Aug 23, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Hmm. Explain to me, if there was a more open nomination process, how Jedward could be elected president without the votes of the people? Or should you have a veto over the people, perhaps? You’re right, I don’t like the process. Doesn’t make it right. There used to be a process where the people bent the knee before John Charles McQuaid. That process was wrong too, and guess what? It’s gone. Processes can change. It’s perfectly legitimate.

Aug 23, 2011 at 3:00 pm

So argue for a change in the process – it doesn’t mean the person elected this autumn won’t be legitimate because it isn’t Norris. The presidency under the constitution is fairly weak with an electoral process to ensure the system controls the nomination. That’s what people voted for when they adopted the constitution. Same way Americans have a delegate system based on the States. My point about Jedward was that popularity isn’t enough – you have to get nominated by the people (public representatives and Senators) with the power to nominate. And that’s partly to stop a populist candidate who won’t understand the limitations of the office. Personally I would like a directly elected Taoiseach/President along US lines and a separate legislature.



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