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Thursday 18 January 2018

Andrews champions Higgins as Bertie tips 'waffler' Mitchell

John Fallon, Barry Lenihan and Fionnan Sheahan

FORMER Fianna Fail minister David Andrews yesterday threw his support behind Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins in the presidential election.

But former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is tipping his "good friend" Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell to win -- even though he famously described the Dublin MEP as a "waffler".

And Mr Ahern still feels he would have done well if he had run for the presidency but blames Fianna Fail for ruining his chances.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will today seek to get the backing of party colleagues for not running a candidate in the election.


In the wake of the botched approach to Gay Byrne and Fianna Fail MEP Brian Crowley's acrimonious departure from the race, Mr Martin will meet with his subcommittee on presidential election strategy today.

The committee consists of deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv, environment spokesman Timmy Dooley, justice spokesman Dara Calleary, party whip Sean O Fearghail and Seanad leader Darragh O'Brien.

The group will come up with a recommendation to bring to the rest of the TDs and senators in the parliamentary party later this week.

Last night, a senior party leader said everybody bar Mr O Cuiv was in agreement the party should not run a candidate.

Mr Andrews said he was endorsing Mr Higgins' campaign in a personal capacity as they were friends for many years.

The former Foreign Minister said he was supporting Mr Higgins because Fianna Fail did not have a candidate in the field.

"And it's in the absence of a Fianna Fail candidate that I'm supporting my long-time friend and colleague Michael D Higgins. This is purely on a personal basis that I'm going to be supporting Michael D. As for other members of the Fianna Fail party, it is entirely up to them," he said.

Mr Higgins said the support of Mr Andrews was a big boost to his campaign.

Meanwhile, despite famously branding Mr Mitchell "a waffler" in the Dail 15 years ago, Mr Ahern said: "I'd say Mitchell definitely has it. His party is on 40pc of the vote and if they run a good campaign, there is no reason he won't hold his party vote.

"He's a good friend of mine, we get on well but he definitely has to be in the driving seat," he said.

Mr Ahern maintained he would have performed well if he had contested the election.

"I still would have done alright. I mean they have done some figures and I would probably sit in around 30pc, which you haven't a hope with as the party is on 20pc," he said.

But the former Taoiseach appears to blame the "party popularity" for his decision not to run.

"Well, if the party popularity didn't go south. The party popularity is the thing that snookers it, because if your party isn't winnable...'

"If there was no downturn and if it wasn't all the hassle of the tribunals and everything else, then you could have had a good run at it," he said.

Irish Independent

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