Cox will be in race for Aras as FG agrees to relax rules
FINE GAEL TDs will be allowed to back multiple presidential candidates in a move which will guarantee that newly joined member Pat Cox will get into the race.
It had been thought that Mr Cox would struggle to get the required backing of 20 of the party's TDs and senators, 30 councillors and five members of the party's national executive council to enter the selection contest on July 9.
But it emerged last night that the Fine Gael national executive decided last week to allow for multiple nominations by each member.
That will mean that one TD, for example, could nominate all four Fine Gael contenders -- Mr Cox, Gay Mitchell, Mairead McGuinness and the new entrant Avril Doyle.
It is understood that there had been some opposition to this on the executive, with some members pushing for the 'one-person one-vote' system.
But the 'multiple-nominations' system adopted will work to the advantage of Mr Cox, who only joined the party last week, and should ensure that he is not blocked from entering the race for the party nomination next month.
Yesterday, former Fine Gael Ireland East MEP Avril Doyle (62) officially announced her entry into the race. She said she wanted to use the Presidency to become a "trade ambassador".
"If you have someone who can bring the right talents and analytical ability, we can attract investment and business and business will grow the jobs," she said.
Ms Doyle said she knew the boundaries of the office of President due to her 35-year career in politics. She preferred to describe herself as having "strength of character", rather than being "forceful".
Ms Doyle said her three rivals were "excellent candidates" but only she could appeal to both rural and urban voters.
While the race for the Fine Gael nomination continues, other presidential hopefuls are trying to get a nomination by securing the support of either 20 Oireachtas members or four local authorities.
But doubt was cast over the provisional backing by Longford County Council for Independent candidate Sean Gallagher. It voted by 10 votes to nine on Monday to support Mr Gallagher as soon as a date for the presidential election was set.
Fine Gael is now challenging the legality of the vote and may seek to overturn it in the coming months.
Another presidential hopeful, journalist Niall O'Dowd, said yesterday he was encouraged by the response he had received in his meetings with Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail.