Thursday, October 06, 2011

Gallagherism - the Magic Door to the Presidency

There are strange stirrings in the Presidential election. Michael D remains favourite to win it – he’s the old dog for the hard road and he won’t be shooting himself in the foot anytime soon. But the rise of Seán Gallagher, as reported in this morning’s Irish Times, is astonishing.

It tells us a lot about the country, and is further evidence of the distance between the political and media elite and the ordinary people of Ireland, the ordinary people who have to find a way to survive the battering of recent and coming years.

There’s no good reason Gallagher should be challenging. Only Dana has less money. Labour, Sinn Féin and Fine Gael have more troops – sorry Martin – on the ground, and Mary Davis seems to have the most resources among the independents. And yet it’s Gallagher that’s coming out on top. Why?

He’s not postering. His website is, frankly, cook. His only exposure is in the shouting matches that masquerade as debates. How in holy Hell is Gallagher capturing the people’s imaginations?

Lack of baggage is Gallagher’s first moment of separation. People are deciding by process of elimination, and there are stronger reasons to object to Dana, Davis, Mitchell, McGuinness and Norris than they are to object to Gallagher or Michael D.

But it’s still remarkable that Gallagher is getting so much capital with so little exposure and less money. It’s can’t be just because of who he’s not. There has to be something else.

An Spailpín’s theory is that Gallagher is capturing the voters’ imagination because he says that he can create jobs as President.

It’s all very well to talk about visions and representing Ireland and the rest, but people living in the real world would sooner be able to pay the mortgage than listen to a lot of old blather about fairness, equality and respect. The Irish people have a lot of respect for the pound note. Surviving a famine leaves a pragmatic streak in the folk memory.

And this is what’s resonating for Gallagher. The country is falling to pieces. People want work. They want to pay their mortgages and have some sort of standard of life. If Gallagher says he’ll do that as first citizen, why not give him a shot? We can worry about pride at home, respect abroad later. This week we’re minding the job and paying the mortgage, thank you.

Of course, the President of Ireland can’t create jobs. Deputy Flanagan was correct in describing him or her as a person whose job is to cut ribbons. But you can’t say that in the middle of an election. You can’t say the President can’t do a damn thing, but we’re spending all this money on the election and office because we fancy a soft job up in the Park.

Gallagher can’t be attacked on the basis that he can’t do what he’s promising to do because that then means admitting the President doesn’t do a damn thing, really. That sort of admission will only make people who are still furious about what’s happened the country even more annoyed, and that level of fury is at Gas Mark 4 as it is.

Seán Gallagher has found the perfect storm and it could blow him right into the Phoenix Park. And once he’s there, what odds? He can’t create any jobs bar his own. He’ll be solid as a rock for seven years, step down, and lecture happily in America for the rest of his days.

Even though Gallagherism can’t deliver jobs, at least the people will have sent a message to the political elite that jobs are what count. Let’s hope there are ears to hear.