Saturday 7 December 2019

McGuinness: I have support but won't give names

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Fine Gael presidential election frontrunner Mairead McGuinness last night claimed she had the backing of two out of every five TDs and Senators -- but she just can't name her supporters.

In a sign of the tightening of the field in the race to secure the Fine Gael nomination, the runners are all pitching themselves as the lead contender.

Pat Cox's supporters claim he is ahead of the pack, based on their figures, while Avril Doyle's camp say he is behind the other three contestants, who are all level.

Gay Mitchell is the only contender not claiming to have crunched the numbers to put him in the lead.

Although her numbers cannot be verified, Ms McGuinness said she has the support of "40 who are rock solid" TDs and senators.

"With five days to go I'm confident that my campaign is on target and that I will secure the nomination with the support of colleagues," she said.

Ms McGuinness said she has the support of 32 TDs and eight senators within the parliamentary party.

But she said she was not saying who was backing her and she also has substantial support among councillors.

The 99 TDs, senators and MEPs will have 70pc of the votes at the selection convention this Saturday in Dublin.

But Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett and Seanad Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke will not be voting, as their independent chairmen positions means they are not members of the parliamentary party.

Junior Minister Michael Ring has a family wedding at the weekend, so he won't be able to attend either.

Meanwhile, businessman Sean Gallagher last night copper-fastened his lead among the Independent candidates seeking a nomination for the Presidential election -- while David Norris slipped further back down the field.

Leitrim became the latest county council to give the 'Dragons' Den' star its provisional support, bringing the total number of councils backing Mr Gallagher to five.

Mary Davis also received a boost yesterday when Monaghan County Council backed her campaign. It follows on from Louth County Council supporting Ms Davis last week, and means she now has the provisional backing of half of the four councils needed to get into the presidential election proper.

Ms Davis also addressed Wicklow and Meath yesterday, but no vote to support a candidate was taken.

Mr Norris also addressed Leitrim last night, but he is still stuck with the support of just one council, Fingal. He will address Tipperary North and South Dublin County Council next Monday.

Irish Independent

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