Beyond the neon runes

The golden ticket

Slowly, but surely, they’re coming out of the woodwork. Having been made to wait, left twiddling their thumbs while the little fellah made up his mind, they are now free to come forward, to declare their interest in the job of their dreams.

And who can blame them?

Because, as jobs go, there’s not many better. It comes with a degree of power but very little responsibility, has a wonderfully grandiose title, massive wage, and an unrivalled list of benefits. It includes extensive travel and as much dog food as the biggest, most slobbery pair of pooches can stomach.

And, so long as you’re popular in your community and have, at some stage, appeared on Dragon’s Den, anyone can apply.

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From there, once your application is in and you’re on the shortlist, it’s just a case of smiling for the camera and not saying anything stupid, of letting your personality shine through and ensuring that your closet is free of skeletons. And if you’re lucky, if the public take a liking to you, you might just get the gig, the dream job: seven blissful years of faffing about at marquees, shaking the hands of dignitaries, and going to matches at Croke Park. And your pets can come too.

The Irish presidency is, of course, a complete nonsense, a ceremonial role akin to a national mascot or a besuited cheerleader.

Yes, it does come with a degree of power, but we have yet to see that power executed. Instead we’re just constantly reminded of the things the President could do if he or she saw fit, the great terror and injustice they could rain down upon us if circumstances permitted. In truth, they’re the equivalent of that guy at work who wears a high-vis jacket and carries a walkie-talkie because it makes him feel important.

However, as Presidents go, as freeloading, jet-setting politicians stealing a living and flouncing around in Communist states can be judged, Michael D has been quite good in my opinion. I voted for him in 2011 because he was the only candidate with a modicum of integrity and, over the past seven years, that has been borne out. He has represented his country well, bringing a ministerial air to the role while maintaining the humility and charm which saw him land the job in the first place.

Would I vote for him again? I probably would, although his recent display of posturing and prevaricating didn’t sit well with me.

Rather than acting all coy and demure, waiting to see if we’d beg him to stay, Higgins should have spoken his mind, he should have said that he was having the time of his life, that he’d give anything to spend another 84 months meeting international footballers and writing poems, walking red carpets and attending civic receptions, being at the heart of all that’s joyful and going missing whenever there’s a crisis. Because that’s surely the truth.

It could be that he delayed his decision because of his advancing years, wanted to discuss it with Sabina before committing to anything, but sure retirement is a more stressful occupation than the presidency of Ireland so that doesn’t make any sense.

Regardless of his motives, he’s taking another shot at it, and this time he’s doing it with the backing of our two major political parties – and Labour. That neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil saw fit to oppose Michael D says it all really, they know how popular he is and know that he’s likely to win any election by a landslide.

Sean Gallagher

They also know how much the last election cost (circa €30 million) and would rather avoid a repeat of the hassle and unrest that marked that particular slugfest. Sinn Féin though, they don’t give a shite about stuff like that, they’re all about the progression of the State and the will of the people, about holding people to account and not allowing the establishment to rest on their laurels.

That’s what they’d tell you anyway. The truth is they just like being awkward. That awkwardness has ensured that there will be an election, of sorts, this autumn, and, as a result, the worms have begun to make their presence known.

Amazingly, almost unbelievably, Sean Gallagher is expected to run again. You may remember him as being the stern-talking, hard-nosed, Colonel Kurtz lookalike from 2011; the chap who at one point was in a commanding lead but then faltered due to a fake tweet read out during a live debate.

Now, following a court case with RTÉ and the cleansing of his character, the former Dragon is ready for round two, ready to oust little Micky, dogs and all.

Potentially joining him on the ticket is another member of that Irish version of a British show which no-one watches, Gavin Duffy. In terms of qualifications, Mr Duffy fulfils all the criteria, i.e. he has lots of money and is a public figure. Whether Gallagher and Duffy will spend all televised debates rejecting Miriam O’Callaghan’s business ideas remains to be seen.

Others have put their names forward, among them artist Kevin Sharkey, who made headlines earlier this year for his views on immigration, and founder of Pieta House, Joan Freeman. But the only one who’s had the gumption to come out and declare his interest outright has been Senator Gerard Craughwell.

And, of all them, he’s the one Michael D should fear the most. Because this lad is a cute ould hoor.

Senator Gerard Craughwell

Rather than prattle on about honour and prestige, rolling out meaningless platitudes and paying lip-service to the role, Senator Craughwell has adopted a novel approach. He’s come and out and said something that no presidential candidate in their right mind would dare to do: He’s asked whether there’s a need for a President at all.

Not only that, he’s also said that the job pays too much and that it costs the State too much. However, between criticising the role, saying it’s not needed and how much of a burden it is, he somehow managed to express an interest in it, saying that he’s only running for it because “it is there to be run for,” suggesting that his arm had to be almost twisted off his back before he could be convinced to apply.

Make no mistake though, if the Senator wins in October he’ll be straight onto that plane, throwing his feet up on the chairs, slugging back the champers and asking, “where to next, lads?”

Because he knows, just like the rest of them, that this is the golden ticket, the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to live the highest of high lives, to be a politician, but with none of the politics, none of the work, and none of the stress.


A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Things were much easier in the old days. Boys were called Patrick, Joseph, or Michael, girls went by Mary, Anne, or Catherine, and everyone was happy out. And because Patrick could become Pa, Paddy, Packie, Pat, or Peader, and Catherine could morph into Cath, Cat, Kitty, or Kit, there was never any confusion.

Then the notions started. We began giving our children all kinds of exotic monikers. It was no longer enough to be a Brian or a Sarah, you had to have something special, something which marked you out as the truly unique individual you were. In Ireland this has manifested itself in the rebirth of Gaelic names, with the only rule being the more fádás the better.

But what happens when that name you spent months choosing, the name which managed to be incredibly cool but also rare and mysterious, becomes passé? What happens when your beautiful child, whose beauty is only intensified by their beatific title, turns up at school and discovers that he or she shares a name with not one, but two other children?

Well obviously you change it. Would you go to a party wearing the same dress as two of your friends? Of course not. So why should you allow your child to share a name with other, less deserving children? It just isn’t right.

The child in question is called Esmée, and after turning up at school to be greeted by two other Esmées, her disgruntled mother now wants to be rebrand the four-year-old. Describing herself as “hacked off” and “really upset” the Mumsnet user asked fellow parents what they thought about changing a child’s name at such a late stage.

The reaction was mixed, some sympathising with her ‘plight’, others reminding her that Esmée is a child not a puppy. How this distraught parent will proceed is anyone’s guess, but I would advise caution.

After all she’s got a pretty versatile name there, one which can easily be adapted: Ezzy, Ez, Ezzums, Mee Mee, the possibilities are endless.