When He announced his candidacy there was much laughter in the usual circles. The idea that a “washed up” radio presenter and sports pundit could be elected president was, it was agreed in the circles that mattered, ridiculous. The New Ireland was not going to elect Trump on the Liffey.
The ruling Sinn Fein/Fianna Fail/Social Democrat government wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about even holding a presidential election, as the shiny new thing aura had come off the government and feelers had been put out to the opposition about an agreed candidate, Now Is Not the Time For Division, etc. But FG, Labour and the Greens weren’t having it. The race was on.
The first surprise was the three leaders of the coalition announcing that they would be all endorsing a single coalition candidate, and that given the flaky wobbliness of the Social Democrats remaining in government when actually confronted with policy choices, both SF and FF conceded and backed a former one-term Soc Dem TD and now senator renowned for being at the cutting edge of Irish progressivism. Her supporters, gathering at the launch of her campaign in the Merrion Hotel (Vegan nibbles only) were almost giddy at the idea of her taking on the misogynist, racist transphobe radio presenter, and delivering a clean killer blow to the Old Ireland. “It’s such a pity HE won’t be on the ballot!” she announced to cheers and jazz hands (Clapping was banned for being too aggressive) from the crowd.
FG surprised all by not nominating a former Taoiseach and instead a former MEP who was “very good” and instantly forgettable.
Labour and the Greens jointly nominated Ivana Bacik as part of their ongoing belief that the Irish people were just itching to love her, and were just being mighty coy about it.
The radio pundit launched his campaign in Croke Park, surrounded by a large number of rural TDs and senators, and set out his values in a clear statement.
He was not sexist, he said. Women with vaginas should be treated exactly the same as men with penises. Nor was he racist: he’d no problem with immigration, it was good for the country. But maths is maths: we only have so many dwellings. He simply hoped to be a president for the great majority of Irish people who get out of bed in the morning, go to work, and pay their taxes.
There was bedlam at the press conference, even more when he was escorted to the large campaign bus which pulled up outside, emblazoned with a huge tricolour and surrounded by green baseball hat wearing supporters all with the slogan “Ireland First!”
Left-wing Ireland descended into an orgy of hate arousal, screaming its fury but also tumescent at the idea that it could now finally run not against the wishy-washy centrism of FF and FG but against an actual fascist.
It was very clear that he simply did not have enough members of the Oireachtas to get on the ballot paper, and so began, with the support of his Oireachtas backers, to seek the nomination of four county councils that would put him on the ballot.
To the surprise of many Dublin-based journalists, the first two councils, Donegal and Cavan, announced quite quickly.
Fintan O’Toole was alone among the left commentariat in warning his progressive fellow travellers that the pundit should not be underestimated, and that if he did get on the ballot he could actually win. He was dismissed by colleagues who declared that the country that had voted out the 8th amendment and voted in Same Sex Marriage was not about to elect this guy.
A third rural council backed the pundit after footage of a shopkeeper beating a violent criminal trying to rob him with a baseball bat did the rounds on Twitter, and the pundit tweeted that if he were elected president he’d invite the shopkeeper to the Áras for a cup of tea. He took to waving a baseball bat at his growing rallies. Cries of “fascist!” were now in vogue, with one senator presenting herself in the nearest Garda station live streaming to report the pundit’s remarks as proof of a hate crime against the financially challenged to a particularly bored-looking sergeant.
“And where this this crime occur, miss?”
“In the soul of the Irish people!”
Everywhere the pundit’s bus went it was swamped with the left screaming at him. It was so coated in broken eggs that the pundit suggested that his campaign should be sponsored by An Bord Bia.
The news that a fourth council had narrowly nominated him, and ensured that he would be on the ballot caused hysteria in certain circles. The first proper opinion poll, putting the coalition candidate on 38% and Him on 36%, with the FG and Lab/Green candidates splitting the difference triggered the Irish Times to run a headline asking if fascism had finally arrived in Ireland.
The first presidential debate was agreed after much negotiating, with many calling on RTE to refuse to “platform the fascist” and calling on the other candidates not to participate. Both the coalition and Lab/Green candidates refused to participate, resulting in a debate between the pundit and the FG candidate (despite an attempt to get a High Court injunction to prevent the debate). The debate basically allowed the pundit a free platform, and a bump in the polls. So much so that the left candidates both u-turned and demanded a second debate a week before polling.
The second debate was memorable primarily for the pundit making statements calculated to wind up the emotionally delicate coalition candidate, who visibly gasped when he announced that he thought some people on social welfare were taking the piss. When asked would he fly a trans flag over the Aras (a question his campaign had planted itself), he said that the only flag he’d fly would be the tricolour she burst into tears, denouncing him as “practically a rapist” and started screaming for the Gardai to arrest him live on air for “active hatecriming” and bullying her. Even Bacik looked open-mouthed at that one.
The following day The Irish Times ran with a huge picture of the pundit with “Bully.” as the headline, and a front page editorial which opened with a reference to the Reichstag fire, calling on the Irish people to rise up and oppose fascism. At the same time the pundit uploaded a TikTok video of himself telling the far-right National Party to “stick their endorsement of him as he’d rather lose than have the support of a bunch of two-bit Nazis.”
The day of the count was recalled for years later as one of the most exciting in Irish history. The Coalition candidate and the pundit were both in the mid-forties on the first count, with all to play for as the other candidates were eliminated. The margin was so tight that both camps were already assembling lawyers to contest the result, an imported prospect that got one senior counsel appearing on a RTÉ panel so excited that he had to be given oxygen. At midnight the returning officer stood before the country and announced that the pundit had won by a mere 7,000 votes out of just shy of two million cast.
The following day the Irish Times denounced the Irish people as racists. A group of senators announced that the election obviously been rigged by Fox News and were going to court to have the result overturned. When asked as to what specific evidence they intended to submit one Trinity senator announced that it was obvious the election was rigged because she did not know a single person who had voted for the pundit.
The courts were very quick to reject the claims, and two weeks later the new president was sworn into office in Dublin Castle. His speech was quite subdued save for a smile at his po-faced predecessor who refused to shake his hand. The new president thanked his predecessor for establishing the precedent that the Áras could in fact comment on current public policy, a precedent he intended to make wide use of.
The first Irish Times article on how an Irish president is impeached was published the following morning.
The announcement of the new Council of State triggered an expected response from some quarters. The editor of a much denounced centre-right online media site was appointed, as was a particularly mouthy Sunday Indo columnist and a farmer with a criminal history regarding firearms. A young black GAA player was also appointed after his speech in school about how proud he was to be Irish went viral. The president later tweeted, in response to criticisms that he had only appointed four women and no members of the LGBT community that A)He had no idea if he had appointed any members of that community or not, and B)perhaps some members of the council would consider redesignating themselves gender-wise? That tweet was reported by 27 people to the Guards as a hate crime.
Within a week of taking residence in the park he had invited the baseball-wearing shopkeeper and his family, where they presented him with a baseball bat in the green “Ireland First” colours. The tweet of the visit was reported as a hate crime.
The Taoiseach met with the president, and laid out her position. She didn’t agree with him on much, but he had been duly elected (despite the #NotMyUachtaran campaign now gaining pace in the country) and she would work with him. He agreed that he would be happy to sign all the legislation he agreed with, and he accepted that most of the legislation passed by the Oireachtas was non-contentious.
When she reminded him that he didn’t really have a choice, he pulled a well-thumbed copy of the constitution out of his pocket. “See, here’s the thing madam Taoiseach. I’ve been reading article 13.3 here, which says that I shall promulgate every bill passed by the Oirrachtas. But it also says every bill needs my signature to become law. So what happens if I refuse to sign?”
“You can’t. You have to promulgate every law. It says so right there.” She pointed at the article.
“And if I refuse to sign? What happens then?” He asked.
TO BE CONTINUED…