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O'Dowd, Doyle join the crowd of Aras hopefuls

FINE Gael's Avril Doyle and journalist Niall O'Dowd became the latest to join the increasingly crowded race for the Presidency last night.

Ms Doyle is going to declare her intention to become the Fine Gael candidate this week ahead of three other rivals, while Mr O'Dowd is seeking the backing of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein, who have not yet selected any candidate.

Mr O'Dowd flew in from New York last night to prepare for meetings with both parties, after expressing his interest.

"I think people are looking for a change, they're looking for something different. I believe in job creation based on my own experience and that's what the next Presidency has to be about," he said.

Mr O'Dowd founded the 'Irish Voice' newspaper and has been credited for his role in keeping former US President Bill Clinton engaged in the peace process in the North.


He is the brother of Fine Gael Junior Minister Fergus O'Dowd and has been living in the US since he emigrated in 1979 at the age of 26.

He said the role could be used to drive even more US investment in Ireland and to lift the spirits of Irish people who were "very down" at the moment.

"I don't accept for a minute that the job is meaningless. I think it's a powerfully uplifting office at a time when Ireland's image abroad needs every bit of help it can get," he said.

Entry to the presidential election is restricted by the fact that each candidate must get the backing of 20 TDs or the members of four local authorities. Mr O'Dowd said he would only contest it if he could get the backing of enough FF, Sinn Fein and Independent TDs.

But the race in FG between former MEP Pat Cox and serving MEPs Mairead McGuiness and Gay Mitchell has been further complicated by the imminent arrival of Ms Doyle.

A source close to Ms Doyle (60) used the Hillary Clinton motto to describe her approach to the contest. "She's in -- and she's in to win," he said.

Irish Independent