Tuesday 17 September 2019

Dana seeks help from all sides in bid to nail down her nomination

Irish Independent reporter

DANA Rosemary Scallon was remaining tight-lipped last night as to who was backing her as she formally threw her hat into the ring in the race for the Aras.

With less than nine days left to secure a nomination, Ms Scallon said she was formally asking members of the Oireachtas to run as an Independent candidate but had already secured some -- as yet unidentified -- backers.

The former MEP announced her intention to enter the contest at the Fitzwilliam Hotel on Dublin's Stephen's Green on the eve of a crunch meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party to decide what to do with the nominations of its 33 TDs and senators.

Ms Scallon, who travelled to Dublin from Claregalway, Co Galway, with her husband Damien and brother, John Brown, said she had left a "message" on party leader Micheal Martin's phone but had not heard back from him.

She would not divulge who exactly was backing her, but said she had nailed down the support of a number of Independents.

She added there were others who had not yet committed themselves to a candidate, and whom she believed might also back her.

Ms Scallon said she was appealing to Mr Martin to allow his parliamentary party to have a free vote to support an external candidate.

"Everybody -- regardless of their stance -- has a right to enter the race," she said.

When asked if she believed she needed the backing of Fianna Fail to secure the required 20 TDs and senators for a nomination, she said: "We shall see. It is highly likely that I shall need backing from any or all quarters."

Ms Scallon finished third in the 1997 presidential election when she won 13.8pc of the vote behind Mary McAleese of Fianna Fail and Mary Banotti of Fine Gael.

She picked up more than 175,000 first-preference votes, beating Labour Party candidate Adi Roche.

She expressed interest in entering the contest again in 2004 but was unable to secure a nomination.

Elected an MEP for the Connacht-Ulster constituency in 1999, Ms Scallon failed to retain her seat in 2004.

She also ran in the 2002 General Election in the constituency of Galway West as an Independent but finished 11th in terms of first preference votes

The former 1970 Eurovision winner -- who as an MEP has campaigned strongly against the Nice Treaty and the abortion referendum proposals -- has also spoken out strongly against Bertie Ahern's government in the past. She told the assembled reporters yesterday that she had always put the people of Ireland first.

However, Ms Scallon admitted she did not, as yet, have funding in place for her campaign.

The presidential hopeful said there was a widespread desire for a more open process, saying the days when "the keys of the Aras belonged to the political establishment" were long gone.

She added that it was her belief that a diverse society called for a "real liberalism" and not an "intolerance that discriminates".

When asked if she believed she could be a president for all people, considering her strong moral beliefs, she responded: "Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and to express their opinions and values. There is room in Ireland for people who have values and who take decisions based on their moral judgments. Anyone who votes for me knows I have always been consistent on personal beliefs but I have not gone around with a brick bat hitting them over the head with them."

She also made an appeal in the interest of "equality" that members of the Oireachtas nominate another woman for the role. Ms Scallon has now been withdrawn from RTE's reality television programme 'Celebrity Bainisteoir' amid her efforts to secure the presidency.

Irish Independent

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