A fake tweet, an envelope and the making of an Irish president
Back in August I wrote about the scandal which brought an end to the presidential hopes of David Norris.
Nearly three months on much changed as Ireland determined who its next head of State would be. Not only did Norris re-enter the race but he went up against a former IRA commander and a former Eurovision winner. In the end none of the three came close to winning but one did determine who did.
The Irish presidential election had seven candidates in the end and in the month-long campaign of debates, canvassing and photo-ops it boiled down to three: Michael D Higgins - a poet, a much-loved human rights campaigner and long time parliamentarian; McGuinness - a former IRA commander turned Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland; and Seán Gallagher - an entrepreneur and star of Ireland's version of Dragons' Den.
Norris hailed his re-entry as the greatest comeback in Irish political history but he struggled with more questions about his past. Of the others, former Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scallon faced troubling questions about personal family matters while independent candidate Mary Davis was given the tag of 'Quango Queen', which was never going to do her much good.
And then there was Gay Mitchell of the governing Fine Gael party. He struggled to gain a foothold in a crowded field. One party source said of his campaign: "There was no craic with Gay."
The 'craic' - you will no doubt be aware - is crucial in all aspects of Irish life.
McGuinness's presence provided a multitude of questions and talking points surrounding his controversial past. He rarely answered questions about his IRA connections satisfactorily and there is and remains much hostility towards him south of the border although Sinn Féin is steadily growing its share of the vote.
It was almost a given that he would never win but the question was whether he could enhance his party's popularity in the polls. He did so but not massively. His greatest achievement in this race was arguably determining almost single-handedly who was going to win it.
With three days to election day, Seán Gallagher had a 15 per cent lead in the opinion polls, well ahead of Higgins, the Labour Party candidate, who had for many weeks been the favourite.
Gallagher shot up midway through the month-long campaign perhaps primarily because, although the substance of his manifesto about creating jobs and opportunities was questionable given the limited remit of an Irish president, it struck a chord in a country where unemployment has been stuck at 14 per cent for some time.
There were questions about his past business dealings and particularly his association with the former party of government, Fianna Fáil, a toxic brand in the post-Celtic Tiger, bailout era.
These did not go away but they did not hinder his progress in shooting up the polls and he looked set to clinch it ahead of Higgins. Then came perhaps the most extraordinary moment of any modern day TV debate.
McGuinness - knowing by this stage he could not win but could play a part in who would - put it to Gallagher that he had accepted a cheque for €5,000 on behalf of Fianna Fáil from a man whom he had asked to attend a party fundraiser. Tangible evidence of Gallagher's close association with the party.
Gallagher flatly denied it but then on Twitter, a tweet purporting to be from the official McGuinness campaign account said there would be a press conference at which this man would reveal all. This was not a legitimate tweet yet it was read out to Gallagher live on air and in his response to the allegation he mentioned the word 'envelope'. A fatal move.
Envelopes, particularly of a brown colour and often stuffed with cash, are much despised in Ireland now. They are associated with a culture of omerta and the kind of cronyism which politicians, particularly of a Fianna Fáil persuasion, engaged heavily in during the 80s and 90s.
That one word - envelope - had an extraordinary effect on the Gallagher campaign. A subsequent series of interviews did little to clarify the matter. He faced more questions and gave less convincing answers, eventually resorting to attacking the "political assassination" of him carried out by Sinn Féin.
Last Thursday he was rejected, the electorate instead going for Higgins. Exit polls showing that the TV debate and fallout from it had changed their minds.
Higgins, described by one international media outlet as an 'elderly poet' is a safe choice. He is much-loved as his one million plus votes show and he "will do us proud" as his campaign posters stated.
A wonderful and cultured orator, his greatest selling point for many is perhaps that he will "not embarrass us on the world stage" as some commentators observed afterwards.
There's something uniquely Irish about that viewpoint, just wanting someone who won't feck it up. For Gallagher, like Norris before him, it was the scandal that got him in the end and his hopes of being president.