Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mairead McGuinness must have recorded the longest parachute flight in world history before she alighted in Louth on Wednesday. Since becoming the MEP for the East constituency in 2004, there has been one project that she has pursued relentlessly - the further elevation of Mairéad McGuinness.

For months now, there has been an artificial 'will she, won't she?' debate in the media that has kept them all guessing.

First off, fair play to Brian Dowling for breaking the story as his first scoop after moving from the Indo to RTE.

But judging by some of the coverage, you'd swear we had just witnessed the arrival of the Queen of Sheeba.

The extraordinary thing about Mairead McGuinness is that despite the panoply of people she employs - and her ultra smooth PR - there is not one idea of hers that I can recall. Ok, being in Europe is a little isolating and Leinster House hacks are guilty of neglect when it comes to MEPs. But Simon Coveney and Avril Doyle and Kathy Sinnott and even Sean O Neachtain have crept onto our radar from time to time, championing causes (sometimes obscure ones, but causes all the same).

But what of Mairead's crusades? Well, Mairead is on the rural and agricultural committee. I had a look at her website today as well as her winter newsletter. Loads of small items of McGuinness pledging herself to worthy causes, being seen with worthy and famous people. Lots of pix too. But was there anything that stood out or that was in any way memorable or original?Zilcho.

She's got a great image (see Sam Smyth's loving profile of her in the Indo for proof). She's an old pro at communications (last big gig in TV was the weighty Celebrity Farm, if memory serves me correctly). I've seen her in action at first hand and if perception is reality, she may prove to be our very own Segolene Royal. And with that there is monstrous ambition.

Michael McDowell wasn't entirely joking when he said she would come home to challenge for the leadership of the party after Fine Gael lost the election. Okay, she's still relatively new. But we should be careful about too much hype. There is still a lot of the relatively empty vessel about Mairead McGuinness.

I'm also sure that she will coast home in Louth.

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