Tuesday 16 January 2018

Boost for Mitchell's presidential bid as he wins Bruton's backing

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

FORMER Taoiseach John Bruton last night gave a significant boost to Gay Mitchell's presidential bid by nominating him to be Fine Gael's candidate.

Mr Mitchell said he was "honoured" to have Mr Bruton sign his nomination papers.

Mr Bruton is entitled to nominate a candidate as a Fine Gael vice-president.

Of the four candidates running, the former Fine Gael leader only nominated Mr Mitchell -- a move seen as an endorsement of the Dublin MEP.

Mr Mitchell is locked in a battle with fellow MEP Mairead McGuinness, former European Parliament President Pat Cox and former junior minister Avril Doyle.

Mr Mitchell and Mr Cox put in commanding performances at the Fine Gael presidential debate this week, putting their campaigns back on track against the frontrunner, Ms McGuinness.

The nomination process is mired in controversy, with the party hierarchy being accused of setting the rules to facilitate Mr Cox, a former Fianna Fail and PD member.

Fine Gael TDs and senators are allowed to nominate multiple candidates for next weekend's selection convention, and to do so anonymously.

Mr Bruton confirmed to the Irish Independent he had signed Mr Mitchell's nomination papers but said he did not want to make any comment on the matter.

Mr Mitchell saw Mr Bruton's backing as a significant development.

"Since he's a former Taoiseach and he holds very similar views to me on a number of issues, I am greatly honoured he has chosen to nominate me as presidential candidate for the party," he said.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he was "undecided" on which candidate to back. "I haven't decided yet. I am not being evasive about it. What I'm doing on Tuesday is I'm holding a constituency meeting where I'm going to consult with the party members in the Dublin West constituency.

"I'm not going to formally endorse any candidate until I've heard the views of the members in Dublin West and the people who get me elected every year," he said.

"I am undecided at this stage and the key thing I want to do is vote for the person who is most likely to get the votes of the Irish people."

Meanwhile, Fine Gael senator Cait Keane has added her support to Mr Cox's campaign.

Ms Keane was responding to a survey to TDs and senators by the Irish Independent.

James Downey, Page 25

Irish Independent

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