Let me from the start declare an interest. I am a member of the Irish Labour Party and gave wholehearted support to Michael D. Higgins during his presidential campaign including making financial contributions through the Irish Labour Party Lawyers group. For me, he was the best candidate and I count him a comrade.
But Michael was not winning the Presidential campaign. Sean Gallagher, promoting himself as an independent candidate was way out in front. He was leading in the polls, including the poll which indicated he would be the candidate most likely to benefit from transfer votes.
Michael and the Labour party were, by and large, avoiding a personalised dirty campaign and were not inflicting any damage on Gallagher. The other parties, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin had no such inhibitions, had their kicking boots on and were playing it as hard and as dirty as any Irish electoral campaign can be. Which is pretty hard and pretty dirty.
But they were having no effect. Independent candidate Norris was destroyed, although that was largely self inflicted, but Gallagher, they couldn’t lay a glove on him and the more they tried the more it backfired upon them.
Gallagher seemed to have it in the bag.
Then came the intervention of RTE, the national state TV channel. They set him up, kicked him in the balls and rolled him in the dust. It was over. In a piece of tabloid TV journalism that would have drawn gasps of admiration form the media advisors to Vladimir Putin they knifed him on prime time television and handed victory to Michael D.
They used a contribution from an anonymous twitter account, which they knew to be anonymous, to destroy him, with all the venom of twitter, and all the malice of the net, knowing, absolutely knowing, that it would kill his campaign.
By their acts RTE have tarnished the presidency. Whenever Gallagher appears he will be known as the man who was cheated out of the presidency by RTE. Whenever Michael D appears we will all know that he owes his victory to RTE, that it was an unfair fight.
And will RTE be guests of honour at Áras an Uachtaráin, the new home of President Higgins, I hope not for they have done no service to Ireland and have instead made us smaller than we should be. If the y ever need a new aerial at their broadcasting centre, then we should insist that it be erected as a tall towering stiletto dagger, plunging into the heart of the Irish presidency.
Part 2: A new election is Imperative.
It is widely accepted that Trump secured the presidency of the United States of America with the help of some dodgy tactics, fake news, manipulation of social media and a ruthless disregard of ethics.
Let us accept that is true.
When it comes to manipulation of social media and fake news then it worth recalling how Michael Higgins became President of Ireland.
He, personally played no part in the social media manipulation and the fake news that swamped the electoral process won him the election. But he was, and remains, the principal beneficiary of a manipulative process that effectively stained the election and stained the office of the presidency.
Let us recall.
We are a small country and national television debates have a markedly greater effect here than they might in a country with a massive population and many many cities and centres of population. So it was that our most important TV station, deploying its most notable and expensive presenters, and having the most sophisticated monitoring process for filtering “public” contributions and participation in their programmes, (and a wealth of experience in so doing), allowed a entirely fake social media account to plant an entirely fake story, at the prime moments of the principal national debate and to entirely destroy the campaign of the then frontrunner. No not just the front runner. Sean Gallagher was way ahead, no one could catch him and no one would have caught him had it not been for the fake account, the fake allegation and RTE’s role in allowing it to run.
One of our major political parties, Sinn Fien, was responsible for the fake news, manipulative attack, and they were aided by a supine RTE.
It undermined the integrity of the election and, in my view the integrity of the Presidency.
So now, when we have to consider whether there should be a new Presidential election or whether we should allow President Higgins into a second term without having to face the electorate, then let us remember what occurred.
It is, in my view imperative there be an election to clear the Presidential electoral process of the legacy of a fake news, manipulated unpleasant odour that saw the wrong candidate win. Or perhaps, for I am a supporter of Michael D, the right candidate win for the wrong reasons.
Of course Michael D should stand, again if so wishes and if he does he would certainly be the candidate that I would support. But not to have an election is to give legitimacy to the fake news manipulative process that took over the election, for if we are authentic in our collective condemnation of fake news, Trump and all that goes with it, then we owe it to ourselves.