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Thursday 24 August 2017

O'Leary refused plea to stand

Aer Arann chief weighs up options and may be candidate

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

INDEPENDENT TDs looking for an alternative presidential candidate -- following the withdrawal of David Norris -- have already been turned down by their first-choice replacement.

Broadcaster and journalist Olivia O'Leary was top of a list of 10 possible candidates -- but she declined the offer in the past few days.

The list includes historians Joe Lee and Diarmaid Ferriter, businessmen Feargal Quinn and Padraig O Ceidigh, as well as former Supreme Court judge Catherine McGuinness and the former governor of Mountjoy Prison, John Lonergan.

An approach was first made to Ms O'Leary two weeks ago by the Dublin South TD Shane Ross and Dublin North-Central's Finian McGrath.

However, Ms O'Leary only ruled herself out in recent days.

Mr O Ceidigh, who is best known for his involvement with Aer Arann, expressed an interest in running last month and last night confirmed that he had been in talks with Independent TDs. He is currently weighing up his options and will make a decision next week.

Also on the list, and the centre of high-profile speculation, is Gay Byrne, who has been pledged the support of Fianna Fail by the party's leader Micheal Martin.

Support

Others on the list include RTE presenter Sharon Ni Bheolain and former senator and trade unionist Joe O'Toole.

There are 16 Independent TDs in the technical group and several Independent senators and other non-party TDs who could support a candidate -- plenty to reach the 20 Oireachtas signatures needed to get on to the ballot paper.

A number of Independents had pledged to support Mr Norris. But they moved quickly to find another candidate after Mr Norris pulled out last week. A number of those on the list have been approached and talks with some possible candidates are continuing.

Sources also said that funding an Independent candidate would not be a problem and claimed that Independent TDs and senators could raise €400,000 for a campaign.

Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has been mentioned as an addition to the list, but she ruled herself out earlier this year.

Irish Independent

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