| 11.9°C Dublin

Andrew Lynch: All kinds of reasons why this dull presidential race needs someone like Dana

The presidency of Ireland is really up for grabs now. Following this week's dramatic exit of David Norris, there is a widespread feeling that the ultimate winner has yet to enter the race for the Aras.

Looking at the four remaining candidates, it is glaringly obvious that none of them has managed to set the country alight -- which is why so many people are desperately hoping for a mystery man or woman to sweep us all off our feet.

Dana Rosemary Scallon is clearly up for the challenge.



SINCERE

When the former Eurovision winner lost her seat in the European Parliament in 2004, she declared, "Like Schwarzenegger, I'll be back."

Now she has turned out to be as good as her word, announcing through her brother and former campaign manager that she is seriously thinking about joining the contest.

When Dana first ran for president in 1997, many political pundits almost died with laughter. By the end of that election, her 14pc vote and third-place finish had earned her the right to be taken a lot more seriously. The Derry woman is politically shrewd, utterly sincere in her Christian beliefs and has a personal charm that's conspicuously lacking in some of her rivals.

Even so, the notion of President Dana still seems like a real long-shot.

It is almost certainly too late now to get the backing of four county councils, since most of them are already pledged to independent candidates Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher.

The Oireachtas members who would have supported Norris are mostly staunch left-wingers, which means they are highly unlikely to get behind a woman who once had a number one single about the Pope called Totus Tuus (Totally Yours).

If Dana does manage to get her name on the ballot paper, the candidate she would hurt most of all is Gay Mitchell. The Fine Gael MEP shares at least some of her socially conservative beliefs, as shown by this week's discovery that he once sought mercy for an anti-abortion campaigner who murdered a doctor and his bodyguard in Florida. Her political base in Galway might also take a few votes from Michael D Higgins, making the eventual outcome even harder to predict.

When the next president is inaugurated in November, it seems highly unlikely that she will brighten up the day with a stirring rendition of All Kinds Of Everything. However, the fact that Dana is even being considered is a poor reflection on the current line-up. Higgins, Mitchell, Davis and Gallagher have all been running hard for months, but the sad reality is that so far there is no real public enthusiasm for any of them.

There is still time for all that to change. Mary McAleese was virtually unknown back in 1997, when she dramatically entered the field seven weeks before polling day and ended up winning a landslide victory.

If there is somebody out there today with similar ambitions, they must realise that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity -- as long as they are willing to get out there and fight for it.

There is certainly no shortage of names. Legendary GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh is known to have been approached, although the fact that he will celebrate his 81st birthday this month would probably rule him out.



YAWNING

Miriam O'Callaghan, Seamus Heaney, Olivia O'Leary -- all of them have the potential to become heavyweight candidates, but none of them has given any public indication that they are prepared to go for it.

The people of Ireland are holding out for a hero.

Whatever you think of Norris, there is no denying that his downfall has left a yawning gap in this race for the highest office in the land.

Dana is almost certainly not the person to take his place -- but for the sake of the presidency itself, it is vital that somebody does.