Irish eyes are rolling at presidential poll

Fri Oct 21, 2011 9:56am EDT
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By Carmel Crimmins

DUBLIN (Reuters) - What do a staunchly Catholic pop singer, a convicted nationalist guerrilla and a gay rights activist with a fondness for Georgian architecture have in common?

It might sound like the start of a bad joke but in fact it is part of the line-up for Ireland's presidential election.

The contest for the ceremonial position has attracted a record seven candidates and a soap-opera-style stream of intrigue and scandal that has distracted Irish people from their economic woes.

"It's pure entertainment at this stage," said Valerie Drew, a 45-year-old civil servant. "I think people are more interested in the individuals' private lives than in what they can do."

"The whole thing is a bit of a joke," she said shaking her head.

Irish presidential elections are notoriously unpleasant affairs because of the focus on personality over policy but this campaign has been particularly grubby.

While the role is chief ceremonial, Ireland's president has the right to refer legislation to the Supreme Court.

David Norris, a leading authority on Irish author James Joyce and well-known campaigner for gay rights, withdrew from the race over the summer after it emerged he had sought clemency for his former Israeli partner, who had been convicted of statutory rape.   Continued...

<p>Irish Presidential candidate Martin McGuinness peels vegetables during a visit to Ballinasloe Horse fair as he continues cavassing for votes ahead of the 27th October Polling day October 8, 2011. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton</p>