With nomination closing on Wednesday the Irish presidential contenders, seven in all, are finally in the starting gate and they include a former IRA leader, a Gay activist and a bible belt singer.
The election will be October 27 and five of the seven seem to have a realistic chance of becoming the Irish Head of State, so it is anyone's guess who will end up in the splendid mansion in Phoenix Park opposite the American ambassador's residence.
Front-runner according to the bookmakers is Michael D.Higgins, a veteran Labor Party politician who has a long and honorable record on issues of civil and human rights. However, he is 71, somewhat frail in appearance and there are questions about his ability to last the pace.
Second on the bookies list is the gay activist, David Norris, who was a last second entrant after his campaign seemed certain to implode over a letter that he wrote on behalf of a former partner convicted of sex with an underage boy in Israel.
Such a letter might have doomed him politically for ever, but Norris is made of stern stuff. he withdrew and let the controversy abate before announcing he was re-entering. He eventually secured a nomination to run from four local councils just hours before the deadline.
Third in the betting is Martin McGuinness, the former IRA leader who had no problem getting nominated by his party Sinn Fein and a few independents but he has come under relentless attack from element in the media who sek to tie him to IRA atrocities.
McGuinness has openly admitted he was in the IRA but stated, that like many other Irish and American revolutionaries to took the path to peace many years.
Indeed, there is agreement that without him there would have been no IRA ceasefire or no peace deal in Northern ireland where he became an unlikely governing partner with hardline Protestant Ian Paisley and later Peter Robinson.
Fourth in the betting is Gay Mitchell of the ruling Fine Gael Party, a European MP who appears the wrong horse for this course.A lifelong politician who never reached great heights he is widely seen as the status quo at a time when the electorate is looking for something different.
Fifth and in with a real shout is a non politician, Mary Davis, who organized the Special Olympic in Ireland when the world finals were held there. She is in the mold of the current and very popular incumbent Mary McAleese and could well spring a surprise.
Bringing up the rear are two candidates.
Dana is a gospel singer,most famous in Ireland for winning the Eurovision contest many years ago.
The final candidate is businessman Sean Gallagher, best known for his role on 'Dragons'Den, a Donald Trump 'You're fired' type program on Irish television.
The month long campaign promises to be great political sport with an eclectic mix and perhaps no clear front runner until the very end.
The likely winner is McGuinness, who despite the IRA aura has proved himself on a world stage, has held his own with the like of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and seems likely to do very well in debates.
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