Send in the dogs — Michael D’s secret to second term
Just as Brexit began to go up in flames, President Michael D Higgins dusted himself down and announced he would very much like to spend seven more years knocking about the Áras. No surprises here. His months of dithering have made it something of a one-horse race with all serious contenders bowing out.
Miriam O’Callaghan chucking it in stung the most. I had visions of Ireland’s answer to the von Trapps — the O’Callaghan clan — moving in and rushing through the Francini corridor singing Do-Re-Mi.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be. As it stands, there only remains ‘a pool of minnows’ in the running, Seán Gallagher, Gerard Craughwell, and the possibility of a yet-to-be-decided Sinn Féin candidate.
Despite this rag-tag bunch, political commentators are suggesting coasting to victory won’t be easy for Miggeldy. His delay tactics have divided opinion, and he will have to put up the good fight.
Having spent some time with the man himself during this week’s royal visit, and an awful lot of time around him during his Australian tour last year, I feel fully equipped to take on the role of presidential advisor.
My advice to him is to launch a simple yet effective two-pronged approach. If he sticks to this game plan, he will go the distance.
Number one? Send in the dogs. Huge, with glossy mains and lolling tongues, Bernese mountain dogs Bród and Síoda are the greatest weapons in Higgins’ campaign arsenal.
He knows this, and in recent weeks has been tactfully deploying them — parading them around at garden parties and photo calls.
These dogs have been carefully briefed: they know their remit and don’t stray from it.
Standing at roughly 15 hands high, they must follow the president around and make him appear like a pocket-sized king who should be wearing a cape and winkle-picker shoes.
The size disparity is crucial here — if Higgins had two toy poodles, it would make less of an impact. A short-statured man with shortstatured dogs is not appealing.
It’s also important that these are not your standard show dogs, primped to perfection. They are clumsy, cumbersome and waddle around. They strike the perfect balance of being both dopes and dotes.
We like them, and as a consequence attribute qualities we see in them to Higgins — such as loyalty, amiability, and a good sense of humour (it’s a established fact that dog owners are inherently funnier than cat owners).
At this stage, Bród and Síoda are welltrained media pros. This week, they went above and beyond the call of duty when they met Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
The couple were greeted warmly, and the dogs allowed themselves to receive a right royal petting. They paused only to drink from a garden fountain (the dogs, not the royals).
The pièce de résistance came when Bród accidentally sat on Meghan Markle’s foot. Needless to say, the royal couple were completely won over.
Bród and Síoda had turned an otherwise uneventful trip (bar the moment Newstalk reporter Henry McKean roared ‘IS IT COMING HOME?’ at Prince Harry) into a memorable event. Michael D knows the quiet power they wield, and will no doubt deploy them with greater frequency in the coming months.
The second stealth weapon Higgins has is his smile. The power of a decent smile should not be underestimated in the political sphere. Sadly, not all smiles are created equal. And in Ireland, we have a rich history of leaders with terrible smiles — Enda Kenny looked like Burgess Meredith’s Joker in the 1960s Batman series when he smirked.
Leo has yet to master the art of smizing (which involves smiling with your eyes as well as your mouth).
I’m pretty sure de Valera had it written into our Constitution that he didn’t have to smile in public — ever, and the less said about Brian Cowan’s grin, the better.
Higgins’ smile is only bettered by Mary Robinson’s beam: warm, welcoming and deeply felt. It looks like the sun is exploding out of his face.
To ensure he lands the second term, his campaign should be ridiculously simple. Keep the dogs front and centre, and grin like a Cheshire Cat.
Impact: Royals Harry and Meghan were charmed by the President’s dogs this week