Wednesday 18 July 2018

Michael D Higgins confirms he will seek a second term as president

Pushed the boundaries: President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain
Pushed the boundaries: President Michael D Higgins at Aras an Uachtarain

Kevin Doyle and Laura Larkin

Michael D Higgins has confirmed that he will seek a second term as president.

In a statement this morning, Mr Higgins said he will be “offering himself as an independent candidate”.

In his first public remarks since confirming his intention to seek a second term in office Mr Higgins has said he has received support for his position from across Irish society.

“Many, in recent conversations with me about our country and its future, have expressed an opinion that I should offer myself again as a candidate,”  he said.

He said he has “sought to reflect the concerns of the Irish people, as well as celebrating their achievements” to date as president.

Mr Higgins also cited Brexit, his consultation with young people and his work on ethics during his current term when discussing his plans to run again.

He said prior to running he could not anticipate what the office would entail.

“I have now met all those demands, both ceremonial, constitutional and political and have responded with what I believe to be the best of my abilities. It is therefore in a full understanding and consideration of all the requirements of the role, that I will be offering myself as a candidate to serve and represent the Irish people,” he said.

Mr Higgins said he believed his experience over the past seven years will allow him to bring “value as we enter a period of great challenge and possibility, at home and abroad” if he is re-elected.

The move ends months of speculation over his intentions. Prior to the 2011 contest, he promised to only be a one-term president.

Sources suggest he would have liked to be returned as President without an election – but that now seems unlikely.

Reacting to the news, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “I actually think we need one at this time.”

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said the party are "delighted" that Michael D Higgins has confirmed he will seek a second term.

He said he has been an "exemplary president" who has been a source of pride for many.

Mr Howlin said he expects the Labour Party's executive board to vote to campaign for Mr Higgins.

Asked about the timing of the announcement, just days ahead of the Dáil recess, Mr Howlin said any potential candidate could have began their campaign at any stage over the past seven years.

People before Profit TD Bríd Smith said she would like to see him run unopposed without the need for a presidential election later this year.

“I would be happy to support Michael D Higgins and I think most people believe, in so far as a figurehead exists and does so much for the country, that he has done a reasonably good job.

He is quite a bold and a brave individual. He is somebody that by in large is on the right side of history and I would be happy to support his presidency.

“I wouldn’t be interested in seeing an election. If he is prepared to go forward then I think we should endorse him and say ‘go for it’.

“If an election happens an election happens but I would be happy for him go forward unopposed.”

A vote will take place in October.

Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party have already backed Mr Higgins and Fine Gael are almost certain to do likewise in the coming days.

The Government has been informed of his decision.

Mr Higgins said his “programme of official duties and engagements continues”.

Tomorrow he will greet Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Here is who is likely to be up against in the race for the Áras.

Gerard Craughwell

Senator Gerard Craughwell emerged as one of the first people to throw his hat in the ring for a presidential run.

The Independent Senator has been critical of President Michael D Higgins for seeking a second term when he indicated during his campaign seven years ago that he would be a single term president.

Mr Craughwell has also hit out at Fianna Fáil for not supporting a candidate to challenge President Higgins, claiming it shows a disinterest in the office. It is understood he and a fellow potential candidate Pádraig Ó Céidigh have discussed a deal which would see them working together to ensure that an independent candidate is selected.

Pádraig Ó Céidigh

Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh has indicated that he would like to run - but only if he believes he has a viable chance of winning. The Aer Arann finder was appointed to the Seanad in May 2016 by Enda Kenny.

The Gaeilgeoir and businessman said he is confident he can fund an election campaign and that he can win support to secure a nomination.

Previously he said among his key concerns during a seven year term in the Áras would be on community and the importance of sport to the social fabric of Ireland.

Joan Freeman

Joan Freeman, the founder of Pieta House, is the latest name to be added to the mix of independent candidates who are working behind the scenes to secure nominations.

Ms Freeman established the suicide prevention charity Pieta House in Dublin in 2006 and was also instrumental in the establishment of the internationally renowned Darkness into Light campaign.

She currently chairs the Oireachtas committee on the future of mental health services.

Ms Freeman was also nominated to the Seanad by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny in MAy 2016.

She has yet to publicly address her potential bid for the Áras but is understood to be working on securing 20 nominations from TDs and Senators.

Sinn Féin candidate

Sinn Féin will make a decision on putting forward a candidate in the presidential election on Saturday. Speaking on Newstalk this morning party leader Mary Lou McDonald said that a presidential election was needed to allow the chance for the country to have a ‘national debate’.

The party has not yet indicated who it is considering for a candidacy but have ruled out former leader Gerry Adams.

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