Former Ireland international footballer Niall Quinn has become the latest in a growing list of famous faces to come out in support of presidential candidates. Just four days after his announcement to step down as chairman of Sunderland football club he released a video message on Mary Davis’s Youtube channel pledging his support to the independent candidate.
Quinn, who has known Davis for over eight years, praised her for her outstanding achievements and support of the Special Olympics. He also makes reference to their time spent working together on the Irish sports council. Perhaps in an attempt to bolster her recently faltering image, he expressly validates her contribution to the sports council, stating that she has worked, ‘tirelessly’ and ‘extraordinarily’ behind the scenes for the council. The video concludes with Quinn reaffirming his belief that Mary is the right person for the presidency, his closing remarks closely mirroring Davis’s campaign slogan, “Pride at home. Respect abroad”. Quinn believes that Davis can show the outside world that Ireland is, ‘going forward as one’ and that the country is ready and, ‘open for business’.
Of course Mary Davis is not the only candidate to receive celebrity backing so far. Labour candidate Michael D. Higgins has received support from acclaimed Hollywood actor and personal friend Martin Sheen. The two became close while Sheen was studying at NUI Galway. In a recent statement, where Sheen denied any intentions of running for the Irish presidency after a recent Facebook campaign, he confirmed his support for Higgins, claiming that, ‘a vote for Michael was a real vote for Ireland’. However, the candidate to receive the most ‘celebrity’ backing thus far has to be Sinn Feinn candidate Martin McGuinnes. Not only has he received the backing of two internationally famous Irish actors, Fionnula Flanagan and Colm Meaney, but he has also received the blessing of respected Irish film director Peter Sheridan.
However, not everyone is happy about the sudden influx of celebrity support to the presidential race. This week, Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell made several biting yet subtle remarks warning of the dangers of voting for celebrity over substance. It is believed that his initial comments were most likely directed towards Mary Davis and Dragon’s Den star, Sean Gallagher, who until recently has been considered the dark horse in the presidential race. Mitchell then went on to suggest that people would make a major error by picking a candidate for superficial reasons. When asked about these comments on the RTE show ‘This Week’ he refused to name names and instead went on to further criticise his opponents and called for greater scrutiny of the other candidates.
Although Mr. Mitchell’s criticisms appear as a thinly veiled attempt to distract people from the shortcomings of his own presidential campaign as well as dwindling poll figures, his comments should not be completely ignored. It is still unclear to what extent celebrity backing will effect voting, and according to the latest opinion poll Sean Gallagher, Martin McGuinness and Michael D. Higgins appear to be in the lead. Weather this is in part due to celebrity endorsement is still unknown. However, many of the candidates are proudly displaying video messages from their celebrity backers on their official Youtube channels.
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