Top Labour candidates to fight it out for Aras nomination
LABOUR'S Michael D Higgins is kicking off his presidential campaign by going head to head with rival candidate Fergus Finlay.
He is beginning a nationwide tour this week to win his party's nomination ahead of Mr Finlay, who is already meeting Labour party members around the country on the 'rubber chicken circuit'.
Other candidates who have declared their interest in contesting the presidential election in October include senator David Norris and Fine Gael MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Sean Kelly.
Businessman and 'Dragon's Den' judge Sean Gallagher is also on the verge of offering himself as an Independent candidate -- despite his Fianna Fail background.
Mr Gallagher was the director of elections for Fianna Fail TD Seamus Kirk in Louth in 2007 and was on the verge of running for the party in Louth in the last general election. Like Mr Norris, he will need the support of 20 TDs and senators, or four county councils to enter the race.
But there is still no clarity about what Fianna Fail is going to do -- with party leader Micheal Martin refusing to say yesterday whether his party would actually field a candidate.
"No, we haven't made up our mind in relation to that," he told RTE's 'This Week'.
Mr Higgins (70) signaled his intent yesterday by releasing a statement in which he spoke about his plan to create a "real republic".
"We must insist on an Ireland where participation is based on citizenship and rights, rather than on the wealth that one possesses," he said.
Mr Higgins is going to hold a a series of meetings around the country, with stops in Galway, Dingle, Bandon and Dublin this week.
In the meantime, Mr Finlay was said by a Labour Party source yesterday to be also going around the country to tell party members of his plans for the presidency. He could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
The decision on the Labour Party's nominee will be made by the 46 TDs and senators in its parliamentary party and its 14-member national executive -- which is headed by party leader Eamon Gilmore. A party spokesman said that the process of selecting a candidate would get underway by the end of this month.
Mr Higgins -- who is hoping to get the backing of Mr Gilmore -- mentioned his "inspired leadership" of Mr Gilmore in his statement yesterday. He also said that while Mr Finlay was a "formidable and able candidate", he believed the Labour Party would be best served by putting him forward.