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Monday 11 December 2017

I will work with anyone as president, says Kenny

Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Trinity College, Dublin, yesterday
Presidential candidate Gay Mitchell with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Trinity College, Dublin, yesterday

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny said yesterday he would work with whoever was elected president -- despite members in his party branding Martin McGuinness a "terrorist".

Mr Kenny refused to either condone or condemn the attacks on Mr McGuinness by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who said he would scare off US multinational investment and Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, who linked him to the Northern Bank Robbery in 2004.

Despite repeated pressing, Mr Kenny said he could not comment on these attacks because of his role as Taoiseach.

"My job as Taoiseach is to work with whoever is elected. I will not comment on any other candidate in this campaign," he said.

Mr Kenny had been accused of being less-than enthusiastic about Gay Mitchell winning his party's nomination last July. But in front of Fine Gael TDs and senators at the Science Cafe in Trinity College Dublin, he strongly endorsed Mr Mitchell as a "good and great man".

He called on all party members to campaign on his behalf -- as director of elections Charlie Flanagan dismissed reports that some TDs were not working for him.

"I expect and look forward if God spares me, on Easter Sunday 2016 to have President Mitchell arrive outside the General Post Office and take the salute," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Mitchell himself proposed that the next president would be given the powers to organise a "truly inclusive" 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. He also suggested that the president should recognise the 70 million-strong Irish diaspora by appointing one of them to the presidential advice-giving Council of State body.

Mr Mitchell said one of the biggest issues he would focus on was the 600 people dying by suicide each year.

"My life's experience would empower me as president to reach out to our young people to say -- 'In this country you don't have to be anything or anyone other than yourself'," he said.

Fine Gael also used Mr Mitchell's campaign launch to promote a councillor, Eithne Loftus, as its candidate in the Dublin West by-election caused by the death of Fianna Fail's Brian Lenihan. Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams launched the campaign of his party's candidate Paul Donnelly in the constituency last night.

As the presidential campaign continued, Labour candidate Michael D Higgins said yesterday he did not believe he would benefit from the Fine Gael attacks on Mr McGuinness.

"In the end there isn't much to gain if candidates start slagging each other off. I think the sooner we all get on with the real debate, it's about who can best be in the Aras and work at home in an inclusive way with all the problems that surround it, and speak for Ireland with good judgment abroad," he said.

At Trinity College in Dublin, Mr Higgins made it clear that he would not be speaking out as president if the Government brought in legislation to hike third level fees -- despite his strongly held views.

"The president doesn't comment on any legislative response in the short term. The general issue of people's education may be appropriate but it would not be appropriate to comment on any legislation that comes before you," he said.

Irish Independent

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