Surely Conor McGregor would be punching above his weight by hoping to become the next Irish President? Although 2025 might seem a long way off, he has already thrown his hat in the ring. 

As yet, nobody seems certain whether that’s a genuine aspiration or just a publicity stunt. If genuine, there are a lot of hoops that he will have to jump through to get on the ballot in less than two years from now.

But supposing he got there, what then? Could he make an actual fist of it? Would he stand a chance against more established contenders; potentially a Golden Oldies contest between Gerry Adams, Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny?

Probably not actually – with the proportional representation system. A populist candidate like McGregor would fare better with first-past-the-post. That way, he could cut in from behind as his rivals slug it out amongst themselves.

But who would be the long-term winners in such a scenario? Does the world and Ireland need another election fought between ageing men who’ve already had their shots at political glory in one way or another?

Though I hate the term ‘pale, male and stale’ if there was ever a time that it could be applied, it’s to the three men that McGregor himself has listed as his potential opponents. They represent aspects of a recent past that’s nothing to be proud of. They’ve all got too much baggage in their own way.

I think that having Gerry Adams as President would undo a lot of the good work that Mary Lou McDonald has done in reshaping Sinn Fein’s image. And if Ireland as a nation votes for the other two, then it has learned nothing.

There’s no real difference in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael these days. As we’re seeing with the magic roundabout government of the present time, they’re essentially the same in political outlook. And when pushes comes to shove, they’ll gang up on Sinn Fein in the Irish political playground.

Recent history has proven that the only way to stop this is for someone to put forward a progressive, intellectual and ambassadorial candidate. The present President meets that criteria, as did Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. Unashamedly, Conor McGregor does not.

At present, there are echoes of Donald Trump in McGregor’s fighting talk. Through social media, he has tried to portray himself as the voice of the ordinary Irishman. The man to change things, to drain the swamp.

Of course, if there wasn’t discontent on the streets, this sort of message wouldn’t travel very far. But thanks to that misdirected discontent, often fuelled by social media, it has travelled to the heart of everyday conversations.

And that’s where the danger lies in all of this. The point at which I got a sense that Donald Trump had a chance of winning was when I realised that so many ordinary people were talking about him, even in Fermanagh.

If he was catching the attention and the imagination of people in small towns an ocean’s width away from where he was campaigning, then imagine how his words were spreading amongst the audience they were aimed at.

It was the same with Brexit and the same with Bolsonaro in Brazil. Before that, Berlusconi in Italy. Maybe Boris Johnson could be added to that list as well. Populism plants seeds that are a bit like knotweed. It can be hard to stop.

There is an appetite for change in Ireland. That was shown at the last General Election in 2020 and evidenced by opinion polls ever since. But the danger is that this hunger is preyed upon by snake-oil salesmen.

So much of Irish governance does need to change, especially for the young. Unfortunately, even if a left-wing government takes over tomorrow, that change won’t happen overnight. It will take time and pragmatism.

Sadly there are many people who don’t want to hear that. In a world of celebrity culture and endless advertisements for luxury goods, people nowadays want instant riches and instant results.

In the real world, getting those results involves a great deal of hard work. Politics is as much about fixing potholes and knocking on people’s doors as leading parades with American Presidents and Mayors.

That in the end is what I think will put a halt to Conor McGregor’s ambitions. The everyday nature of politics is a million miles away from fantasies of reversing immigration and purging the bowels of Dáil Éireann. At the end of the day when it comes to actual policies, McGregor is a bit of a lightweight.

There’s another flaw in Conor McGregor’s campaign being based around the idea of giving Ireland back to the Irish. The role of Irish President is one that transcends the boundaries and borders of Ireland.

That’s why, in the window of Áras an Uachtaráin, there’s a candle burning for all those immigrants who’ve left home. The people of Ireland surely aren’t going to snuff out that candle and in the world’s gaze, cease to be the land where strangers are just friends you haven’t met.

Actually to end on a funnier note, the man who’s often associated with saying that might make a better President if we’re going down the road of celebrity. Daniel O’Donnell and his wife Majella would be a fine Presidential couple.

There are plenty of other candidates too from Joe Biden’s namesake Joe Brolly to Colin Farrell as Ireland’s Ronald Reagan, looks-wise if not politically. Or what about Barra Best who’d maybe bring a bit of sunshine to the place and wouldn’t just go with whatever way the wind was blowing.

And amongst the women of Ireland, just like the two Marys of decades past, there are plenty of potential candidates outside of party politics. Síofra O’Leary, the President of the European Court of Human Rights is one. Another might be Linda Ervine, trade unionist and Irish language activist.

Or – to get Conor McGregor really, really mad – mad enough to fight even – what about one of the new Irish? Now that’d be some craic.