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2 April 2012 Edition

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Rush for the Áras

Book Review – The Race for the Áras

• Martin McGuinness on the campaign trail during the Presidential election

Looking back through some of the Herald articles makes for hilarious reading as their many unnamed ‘Herald sources’, who allegedly had inside knowledge of all the campaigns, consistently got it completely wrong

THE 2011 Presidential election was one of the most dramatic elections ever. Regrettably, Tom Reddy’s Race for the Áras isn’t so good.

The election itself was characterised by high drama, farce and in particular a concerted and dirty campaign by some media outlets against individual candidates, particularly Martin McGuinness.

That RTÉ TV Frontline debate and ‘Tweetgate’, where Seán Gallagher was exposed as a Fianna Fáil bagman, is now embedded in media history. And let’s not forget the shockingly poor performance by Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell.

Tom Reddy is a former Cabinet adviser and senior journalist with Independent Newspapers, which probably explains his book’s heavy dependence on quotes from the Irish Independent and Sunday Independent as well as the Dublin-centric Evening Herald.

Many of the claims made by the Evening Herald, such as its 13 October front-page “McGuinness goes ballistic at Miriam [O’Callaghan]” have since been proven to be utterly untrue. Looking back through some of the Herald articles makes for hilarious reading as their many unnamed ‘Herald sources’, who allegedly had inside knowledge of  all the campaigns, consistently got it completely wrong.

The Race for the Áras would be a good book if you were looking for a condensed chronology of the mainstream media coverage which  featured so heavily during the election but its over-reliance on the Indo papers means that election fans only get one side of the story and learn little new, if anything. Very few local papers are looked at and the international dimension is barely touched on, despite the contest receiving coverage from Al-Jazeera, BBC, France24, Fox News and many others.

The Race for the Áras feels like a rush job and for me (as someone who spent most of the election on the McGuinness campaign bus) fails to do the drama of the contest justice.

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