Saturday 22 July 2017

Mairead leaves Aras door open

Fionnan Sheahan, Barry Duggan and Fiach Kelly

FINE Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness last night issued a 'come and get me' invitation to her party if they want her to run for the presidency.

And two senior Labour figures threw their hats into the ring amid fears party members would support Senator David Norris's bid for the Aras.

Children's charity chief and former spin doctor Fergus Finlay and veteran Labour TD Michael D Higgins both expressed an interest yesterday.

Ms McGuinness said she hadn't given much thought to the prospect, but she left the door wide open for an approach by the party hierarchy.

"I haven't ruled it out but I have not been asked by the party," she said.

Fine Gael's Meath East TD Shane McEntee said he had "no doubt" the Ireland East MEP would be interested and would be the best candidate.

Labour won't select its candidate until the spring, but already two party heavyweights have declared. Senior party sources said the growing calls for Labour to nominate Mr Norris as their candidate had caused the earlier than usual declarations of intent.

A group backing Mr Norris was even attracting support from some members of Labour. But the entry of Mr Finlay and Mr Higgins into the race will now close off that route.

The candidate will be selected by 36 Labour TDs, senators, MEPs and members of the national executive. The fact most of those voting will be running in the General Election is seen as vital.

"It's a very political electorate and they will be conscious of the election and their own seats.

"They'll want a candidate who will carry the profile of the party and who articulates the party's vision," a senior party source said.

The party will probably hold its selection convention in April.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore welcomed the contest within his party, but predicted that a general election would come first. He stayed neutral and refused to choose between Mr Finlay and Mr Higgins.

Field

"We have to see what the full field of candidates is going to be. The election isn't going to be until next year. It is widely known that Michael Higgins is interested in the nomination and Fergus Finlay has now indicated his interest," he said.

"I don't know whether there will be other people expressing an interest or not, but it is something that we will come to deal with. I am very glad there is going to be a contest for the Labour Party nomination."

Mr Gilmore said he was confident a Labour candidate could be elected as President .

"I remember that it was a Labour nominee that won the presidency before -- Mary Robinson. So we have some form in this election," he said.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said his party had "not given any consideration" to selecting a presidential candidate.

He said he expected a general election to take place before any presidential poll and claimed that the party had not approached any potential candidates. Mr Kenny also said Fine Gael had not been contacted by anyone seeking a nomination.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said Fianna Fail hadn't given any consideration to selecting a candidate.

"We have been focused on the economy, focused on jobs for the last two-and-a-half, three years," he said.

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