Nominating Presidential Candidates

Article 4.2 of the Constitution says as follows:

Every candidate for election, not a former or retiring President, must be nominated either by:

i. not less than twenty persons, each of whom is at the time a member of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, or

ii. by the Councils of not less than four administrative Counties (including County Boroughs) as defined by law.

Now, on the face of it, that seems reasonable enough, until you remember that members of the Oireachtas include senators, none of whom has been democratically elected.  Some, such as those on the highly flawed Universities panel, can hold up some sort of fig-leaf, having been elected by graduates of the NUI or Trinity, but this in many ways only compounds the insult since graduates of the other third-level institutions have no vote.  And in any case, why should the fact that you once managed to scrape a degree qualify you to vote for the Senate while your neighbour who worked hard all his life has no such right?

At least the county councillors (God help us!) were elected by some sort of democratic process, even if many of them can barely scratch an X on a rock with a sharpened flint, but let’s leave that to one side for now.  Assuming the councils have about 25 members give or take a few, a majority on four councils is needed to nominate a candidate, and thus, about 50 elected councillors are equal to 20 Oireachtas members, some of whom have never stood for election of any sort.  This is not making sense.  Worse, it lacks dignity.

At least, to his credit, Sean Gallagher made an announcement once he’d got his four council nominations, that he didn’t need any more.  Mary Davis, on the other hand, seems to think it’s a great idea to collect eight, nine, ten or even a dozen councils, just to be sure to be sure. What a visionary and inclusive president Mary promises to be.

Norris, meanwhile, was rebuffed by his Oireachtas colleagues, with Mattie McGrath deciding not to put his mark next to David’s name, after consulting an advisory body from the South Tipperary Ear-Hair Society.  After doing a quick jig and a two-step, Mattie decided, despite everything he said previously, that Norris wasn’t getting his X.  That leaves Norris traipsing around the remaining councils hunting for the odd undecided councillor.  What?  Is it that queer fella from above there in England?  Or is it Dublin? Why the feck would I be votin for a feckin nancy-boy?

Now, it seems to me that there are many ways out of this conundrum.

You could argue that a  points system is the answer.  One Oireachtas member equals two councillors.

But somebody else might point out that some of those Oireachtas members are useless, time-serving gobshites who were never elected to anything, and this is a point you’d find difficult to dispute.

So how about setting them in order?  One Dáil member is worth, for the sake of argument, 100 points.   A councillor is worth, let’s say, 10 points.  And a senator is worth nothing at all.  Does that seem fair, considering the fact that the Senate is a waste of time and money?  It seems reasonable to me anyway.  But of course, you’re then confronted with the difficulty of dealing with the blindingly obvious: many Dáil members are also complete fucking idiots, so how could we give them 100 points?

The answer, of course, is that we can’t, so I have a suggestion I’d like to run by you.

How about if we just let people put themselves forward for the presidency and see who gets elected?  Would that be a very hard thing to do?



18 thoughts on “Nominating Presidential Candidates

  1. There has to be some sort of filter system. If anybody could put their name forward we’d end up with half a Jedward as president.

  2. Ah, Bock, allowing anyone to stand? Wasn’t the point of the 1937 Constitution to ensure that a small elite controlled these things?

  3. My suggestion, for what it’s worth, everyone over 18 has a vote, everyone over 18 can do the Lotto, so, lets run the Presidential Election using the Lotto “Millionaire” model.
    Everyone is in with a shout, no bullshit to listen to, no gawmey election posters, instant result, fortune raised which could to go to pay the outlandish cost of the Presidency, win win

  4. And in any case, why should the fact that you once managed to scrape a degree qualify you to vote for the Senate while your neighbour who worked hard all his life has no such right?

    Because, as is readily apparent, sometimes it’s better to have representatives who haven’t been elected by popular vote; a popular vote that is highly susceptible to emotion, demagoguery, short term thinking and, gombeen politics. To assert that general elections are the only legitimate way to select governments is almost as absolutist as saying that only landowners can vote.

    People concentrate on the small amount of university senators, but there are also the vocational panels, which include labour, industry, and the arts. These are actually even less democratic as the electorate is largely county councillors, but the panels ultimately retain the power to nominate candidates. (By the way, there’s nothing in the constitution which prevents a general election of panel candidates. The restriction of the electorate to county councillors, TDs and Senators comes exclusively from the 1947 Seanad Electoral act, which can be amended by a simple bill, no referendum required.)

    The purpose of these panels is to give specialised groups in society a voice in parliament. In theory it would temper the excesses of the popular vote (e.g. Fianna Fail) while allowing more reasoned and responsible debate from senators who did not have to fear mouth foaming tirades from newspapers ruining their re-election chances. (Of course, the other purpose of the panels was to emulate the fascist councils of the 1930s, but never mind.)

    It’s no accident that the university constituencies have consistently elected high quality, independent candidates outside the party system. These candidates don’t have to be all things to all people, can campaign on actual platforms, and have much less to fear from hysterical or negative campaigning. And yes, the general electorate is quite susceptible to such influences.

    Consider it elitist if you want. But remember that 40% of the electorate voted gladly for Fianna Fail in 2007, and that without such elections the likes of Mary Robinson, Joe O’Toole, and David Norris would never have seen the inside of the oireachtas. So if you think the country is better without the Seanad, be my guest.

  5. OMF — I’m not necessarily saying that the Senate should be abolished, but I think its election procedures need to be improved. For every Mary Robinson or Joe O Toole, there’s a corresponding Terry Leyden and Ivor Callely.

  6. How about a 3 stage process, for example: Anyone can put themselves forward and if they get 100,000 public signatures they go to the next stage. An increase to 200,000 signatures takes them to stage 2. The top 7 go through to the final round.

    Controlling it – each passport holder logs into an online database, enters their passport number and address, and gets given a unique pin. The passport number and pin then allows them to cast their vote at each stage.

    Just a thought, maybe mad?!

  7. Hmmm..How about we let the candidates hunt down Ivor Callely on horseback in the Phoenix Park? First back to the Aras with his head on a stick gets first dibs on the job. Just a thought.

  8. Any Irish citizen over 18, tax compliant and let the people decide.

    The position should remain apolitical and the salary should be reduced so that only people who really want the job will go forward. It should not be a resting place for ex politicians. They have enough pensions as it is.

  9. I think Mick’s suggestion is worth consideration. Re Mary Davis, her actions don’t indicate she’s the Mother Teresa candidate she might be portrayed as. Denis O Brien is seriously backing her apparently.

    BTW, what’s so great about Joe O Toole? I reckon teachers have enough power through their unions without having their own senators as well.

  10. Well

    On Mick’s suggestion I’d do what they do in Poland apparently. YOu get 15,000 registered voters signatures and you’re in.

    If you can’t get 15,000 signatures then you’re not going to have a snowballs chance of getting elected. It also cuts down on gobshites running for vanity/egotism/other reasons as they’d have to persuade 15,000 voters to give them their signatures. It wouldn’t stop them 100% but it would most of them.

    Then let the people decide who they want to vote for.

  11. Democracy is the worst system ever devised? Really?

    Worse than dictatorship. Worse than monarchy. Worse than theocracy. Worse than Ceaucescu. Worse than Hoxha. Worse than Stalinism. Worse than the Khmer Rouge?

    That’s a hell of a statement to make.

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