Republic's election antics are a sorry sight
How quickly things have changed in the Republic. Earlier this year President McAleese was being hailed as the great healer after inviting the Queen to make the first ever visit by a British monarch to the country since independence. The success of that visit, along with her outreach to northern loyalists, had given what is a largely ceremonial role a sense of gravitas and statesmanship.
However, the race to find her successor has become an undignified circus with sensational accusations being bandied about. Even Dana, an unlikely target if ever there was one, has found herself at the centre of a media storm claiming vile allegations were being directed at a family member which, for a time, threatened her continued participation in the election. Understandably, the prime focus has been on Martin McGuinness and his IRA heritage and on David Norris and his controversial attitudes to sex between men and boys. Both have found themselves harried at every step of the campaign trail.
While it can be argued that this is simply democracy in action, it must be remembered that this is not an election about policy issues or government as say in America. In spite of the high profile of Mary McAleese and her predecessor, Mary Robinson, the role of president is still that of a neutral figurehead.
The confrontational tone of the set-piece election broadcasts, with McGuinness in particular claiming trial by television, has made the race to the Aras an undignified and unsavoury spectacle, at least viewed from this side of the border.
The way the campaign has been conducted could damage the image of the presidency at a time when it has probably its greatest popularity rating, doubtlessly helped by the fact that the reputations of the Republic's politicians are at their lowest. What would be best for all concerned is that the voters elect a candidate with no controversial baggage and that this, at times, vitriolic election is quickly consigned to the pages of history, leaving the winner to get on with the job of building on the work of previous presidents.