McGuinness seeks FG nomination to run for presidency
FINE Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness last night became the favourite to run as her party's candidate for the presidency.
Ahead of an internal selection convention next month, Ms McGuinness threw her hat in the ring when she made her long-awaited announcement to seek the nomination.
As the largest party in the country at national, local and European level, Fine Gael has a great chance of winning the office for the first time.
Fine Gael strategists were aware of Ms McGuinness's plans, which put her in the field with fellow MEP Sean Kelly and former Taoiseach John Bruton. Neither man has ruled out a run, while former European Parliament president Pat Cox is also said by senior party sources to be "sniffing around Fine Gael for a nomination".
He appeared to express an interest in running for the Park in recent weeks.
Now Ms McGuinness has installed herself as frontrunner ahead of a parliamentary party meeting next month, after the Seanad election, when the presidential candidate will be selected. Fine Gael's 76 TDs, four MEPs and the newly elected and appointed senators will vote.
"She's the frontrunner. I think John Bruton is a reluctant candidate. He'd only go if he was needed. Sean Kelly might still put his hand up. But it will be interesting to see their reaction to the candidacy of Mairead McGuinness," a senior party source said.
"Mr Cox's name would enter into it if there was nobody else," the source added.
But another senior figure said the race was more open, with all four still in with a shot.
"We have a rich shortlist. Like any political party, there is a natural sense of loyalty to people who are active," the source added.
Ms McGuinness announced her intention to run at an event in Athy, Co Kildare, last night.
The 51-year-old from Co Louth is a former broadcaster and journalist with the Irish Independent, RTE, Irish Farmers Journal and LMFM radio.
She became an MEP in 2004 when Enda Kenny's team picked her as a high-profile runner and she has twice topped the poll in European elections.
Ms McGuinness said she was regularly asked if she intended to run for the presidency.
"Having thought long and hard about it, tonight I want to tell you that I have decided to seek the nomination of the Fine Gael Party to run for the presidency.
"I am making this announcement here at this celebration in Athy because I firmly believe the seeds of hope for our country will be found in our power to create and in the infinite ability of our collective imagination. It is in our creativity that we will find the capacity to bring about a new vision for this country," the MEP said.
If she gets the nomination, she will probably be up against Senator David Norris, Labour's Michael D Higgins or Fergus Finlay and possibly a Fianna Fail and a Sinn Fein candidate.