Seven magnificent candidates are confirmed for the electoral contest to find the next President of Ireland. Each one bears a myth, a story of themselves drawn from their pasts, manifest in their presents and projected into their futures.
Each myth is the personal story they tell about themselves in order to describe themselves to themselves and to others. These myths are not lies or occlusions, but they are representations of matters, rather than the matters themselves. They present mythic figures, worthy and heroic enough for high office.
No less an heroic figure than the actor Charles Bronson, playing the character of O'Reilly in the film The Magnificent Seven, advises children (the rest of us?):
Don't you ever say that again about your fathers, because they are not cowards. You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until finally it buries them under the ground. And there's nobody says they have to do this. They do it because they love you, and because they want to. I have never had this kind of courage. Running a farm, working like a mule every day with no guarantee anything will ever come of it. This is bravery. That's why I never even started anything like that... that's why I never will.
The varieties of heroism in O' Reilly's speech are reflected in the collective acts of symbolic narration, the myths, each of the presidential candidate bears. And beg the question: do we need heroes and their myths?
Mary Davis advances a myth of national renewal, championing fairness and the restoration self-confidence, by challenging the stigmas surrounding marginalised people.
Sean Gallagher presents a myth of community, honesty, integrity and hard work, in a presidency that beats with enterprise at its heart.
Michael D. Higgins envisions a myth of inclusive citizenship, worthy of a real Republic, that is liberal, respectful and internationalist.
Gay Mitchell promulgates the myth of pro-business government, stressing rights, responsibilities, enterprise and social justice.
Martin McGuinness offers the myth of gunman turned peace-maker, independent of Government, promoting an ethos of equality and inclusion and recognising civic participation.
David Norris, the first openly gay candidate, lays out a myth of human rights made central to the presidency.
Dana Rosemary Scallon tells the myth of peace, Christian family values and respect for life.
Philosopher Richard Kearney opines that
Every mythology implies a conflict of interpretation. And this conflict is, in the final analysis, an ethical one.
We – observers, citizens, voters – are caught in the middle of the electoral crossfire, together with Charles Bronson.
Yes, that’s right, Bernardo O’Reilly. Mexican on one side, Irish on the other, me caught in the middle.
O'Reilly dies, saving children, caught in lethal crossfire. But the myth lives on. Charles Bronson for president then?
Myth and the Critique of Ideology; Navigations; Richard Kearney; The Lilliput Press; 2006
The Magnificent Seven; film; The Mirisch Company;1960