Saturday 17 November 2018

Higgins is told to stop 'mumbling' - and reveal his plan

President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Gerry Mooney
President Michael D Higgins. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

President Michael D Higgins has been accused of running a covert campaign for re-election to Áras an Uachtaráin.

Once again over the weekend, it was speculated that Mr Higgins is laying the groundwork for a second term in office. However, he is still refusing to clarify his position.

Presidential challenger Gerard Craughwell last night told the Irish Independent that the time has come for him to stop the "nonsense".

"Either he is running or he is not. He should just come out with it," the senator said.

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice backed this view, saying: "Instead of just mumbling behind the scenes, come out with it."

It was reported on Saturday that Mr Higgins has informed senior Government figures that he wants to run for re-election.

One minister confirmed yesterday that "everybody assumes at this stage" that Mr Higgins will seek another seven-year term.

Voting is tentatively pencilled in for Friday, October 26.

However, the leadership of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil has shown little or no interest in running a candidate if the incumbent decides he wants to remain in office.

Asked whether Mr Higgins had tipped off the Government to his plans, a spokesperson said: "As previously indicated, the President will make his intentions known in July."

He declined to elaborate when asked if Mr Higgins was annoyed by the ongoing public speculation over his position.

But Mr Craughwell said there was nobody to blame except the President.

He suggested Mr Higgins was using his position to garner publicity and public recognition.

"He's saying 'it would be beneath me to actually run in a campaign-type contest',"

Mr Craughwell said. The Galway native now fears that the President will wait until after the Dáil and Seanad break for their summer recess to make an announcement.

This would reduce the opportunities for prospective candidates to canvass TDs and senators for a nomination.

A candidate needs the support of at least 20 members of the Oireachtas to get their name on the ballot paper.

Mr Craughwell claimed a "significant number" have already offered their backing - but most want to hear Mr Higgins' position before making a public declaration.

"I want to put it up to Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin that this nonsense that he's doing a great job has to end.

"If they don't want to contest it, then release their party members to nominate whoever they want," he said.

"My sole goal all along was to create an election. I'll do that to the bitter end."

He said the main parties "would kill all around them" to win a county council seat but for the presidency they "are not interested in entering a battle".

Mr Fitzmaurice, a TD for Roscommon, also criticised the main parties for the same reason.

"Irish people should get a say. My problem is that the political parties are basically saying 'let him work away'," he said.

Mr Higgins has been increasingly visible in recent months, attending a number of high-profile events.

Already this month he has travelled to Switzerland, Latvia and Lithuania.

In April, he addressed the United Nations in New York.

During the 2011 campaign, the 77-year-old indicated that he only wished to serve one term in office.

However, more recently he told the Irish Independent that he "absolutely" has the energy for a second term. "I've never ran away from a contest in my life," he said in April.

Irish Independent

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