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Higgins eyes second term as possible election looms

Wednesday, 11th July, 2018 5:12pm

Talk about this year’s possible presidential election is ramping up, with several potential candidates rumoured to rival President Michael D Higgins.

President Higgins announced earlier this week that he would be seeking re-election to Áras an Uachtaráin later this year, saying he would be putting himself forward as an independent candidate.

Addressing months of speculation in a statement on Tuesday, Mr Higgins said: “Since my inauguration in 2011, I have sought to reflect the concerns of the Irish people, as well as celebrating their achievements. I have taken the opportunity too of addressing some of the long term and deep structural issues within Irish society, including poverty, exclusion, and inequality in its many forms.”

A number of potential candidates have previously declared their interest in rivalling President Higgins, including Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell and Irish artist and television presenter Kevin Sharkey. Other people who have expressed an interest in running include Senator Padraig Ó Céidigh and Senator Joan Freeman.

Businessman Sean Gallagher, who contested the 2011 election against Mr Higgins, has also prompted speculation that he will enter the race after he posted a letter written to all Irish councils asking that they formally set aside time to discuss nominations for the presidency.

Adding that he given “long and careful consideration” to the decision to re-run, Mr Higgins said he believed that there were “good foundations for the further development of the Office of President, and that the experience I brought to, and have gained within the role, could be of particular value as we enter a period of great challenge and possibility, at home and abroad”.

Other candidates will need the backing of either 20 members of the Oireachas or four local authorities if they decide to contest the election. Should anyone be nominated against President Higgins, an election will likely take place in late October.

Fine Gael last night decided to support President Higgins, while Sinn Féin will decide at a party meeting this weekend whether it will field a rival candidate. Among those rumoured as a potential Sinn Féin candidate is Cork MEP Liadh Ní Riada.

Labour Local Area Representative in Cork Peter Horgan said his party would be supporting President Higgins: “He has brought this country together in a most admirable way since 2011 and has enhanced our country’s international standing immeasurably.”

Speaking before President Higgins announced his decision, Fianna Fáil had already announced that they would not be fielding a candidate. Leader Micheál Martin said: “President Higgins has served the country with great distinction over the course of his first term both at home and around the world. He enjoys widespread support across the country and has demonstrated his understanding and connection with communities across a broad range of issues in recent years.”

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