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I may be only 15 but I hope oldest candidate will be our president

At 15 years old, I have only ever known one president. The significance of the position passed me by completely as Mary McAleese sailed through largely under the radar, causing no problems and no major controversies for the Government or the country.

But this presidential campaign has captured my attention and the attention of my peers.

We're too young to vote but the ferocity of the campaign has sparked our interest. I have begun to take notice of the importance of the role and in the people running for it.

All of the candidates have had ups and downs, many debates have come and gone, many events have caused people to stir and whisper.

The Frontline debate was the last opportunity for the candidates to make one final push but, as Sean Gallagher discovered, it was also an opportunity to jeopardise the whole campaign.

The Cavan man looked uptight all night long and was just not able to handle the barrage of questions hurled at him mercilessly from all angles.

We won't know until tomorrow how badly the debate damaged his campaign, but dealings with Hugh Morgan, links with Charlie Haughey and his work for Fianna Fail have denied him an easy victory.

We, as the young people of Ireland, need honesty in our leaders for the sake of our future.

Likewise with Martin McGuinness, on the surface he seemed a strong candidate until questions started popping up about his ugly history as a member of the IRA.



murder

Myself and my classmates are too young to remember the Troubles and the hurt caused by IRA killings. We know little of Jean McConville's story -- but anyone can tell when a mother-of-10 disappears and is found dead decades later that it is murder.

McGuinness couldn't turn away from the barrel of the gun -- his rehearsed routine was not enough to dampen our suspicions about that shady past of his.

Gay Mitchell has proved that he is clearly unsuited for the job as he made the perilous mistake of attacking the audience. To my mind, he blew his already slim chance.

The President of Ireland represents us at ceremonial functions and on foreign trips. Mitchell's intelligence is undoubted, but he lacks the charisma necessary for the job.

Dana Rosemary Scanlon and Mary Davis are the also rans and although David Norris appears to have won back a few voters in recent days, his past controversies have ruined his chances.

I want Michael D Higgins to be our next President. He has showed consistency and charm all through the campaign. He doesn't over-complicate matters and can represent our country to great effect.

I believe his performance in the polls speaks for itself -- he's been at or near the top the whole way through.

As for the age issue, it's an understandable concern which he himself recognises but can do nothing about.

If a 15-year-old can live with it then the rest of the country can too.

Gavin Mulligan is a transition year pupil at Malahide Community School