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Left-wing parties back artist Ballagh for Aras

ARTIST Robert Ballagh is in talks with Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance about running for the Presidency, the Irish Independent has learned.

The negotiations are still at an early stage, but Mr Ballagh would run as an Independent left-wing candidate campaigning against the cuts being imposed as a result of the IMF-EU bailout.

However, the parties don't want to block Independent Senator David Norris from also being on the ticket.

Mr Norris chalked up two more signatures for his nomination yesterday to bring him up to 15 TDs and senators -- three-quarters of the way there to get an Oireachtas nod.

Despite pledging to vote for Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins, Independent senators Fiach MacConghail and Katherine Zappone said they would nominate Mr Norris.

Mr Ballagh is a left-wing Republican and campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty.

Following the sudden death of his wife, Betty, earlier this year, he has also been a strong critic of the health service.


Mr Ballagh is now considering a run and was involved in talks on the matter this week in Leinster House.

"It's a possibility but I would say it's no more than that at this stage. He's had very informal discussions with them. It's very loose at this stage," a source involved in the process said.

Mr Ballagh's campaign would focus on the loss of democracy and sovereignty as a result of the IMF-EU bailout.

Between them the parties have a possible 22 Oireachtas members to sign the nomination.

Sinn Fein has 14 TDs and three senators, while the United Left Alliance has five TDs -- Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Richard Boyd-Barrett, Joan Collins and Seamus Healy.

While Mr Ballagh would be an Independent candidate, the parties could be involved in a steering group running his campaign.

"It would be quite important to some about what exactly the policy feel of the campaign would look like," the source said.

Mr Ballagh was unavailable for comment last night.

Sinn Fein has not ruled out running its own candidate in the presidential election and some within the party see being on the ticket as an important step in the party's development.

And the United Left Alliance won't back him if they fear he will become the de facto Sinn Fein candidate.

None of those involved in the talks want to see Mr Norris being blocked from running as a result of the move. But the parties want to see a more explicitly left-leaning candidate in the field.

"In so far as it was discussed, Robert Ballagh and others are all agreed we want to see Norris on the ticket.

"We don't want to do anything to adversely impact on his candidacy. In an ideal world, both will be running," a source said.

Irish Independent