Friday 17 January 2020

'I've never run from a contest': Higgins indicates he'll seek second Áras term

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins

Cormac McQuinn in New York

President Michael D Higgins has given his strongest hint yet he will seek re-election to Áras an Uachtaráin later this year, saying: "I've never run from a contest in my life."

Mr Higgins has yet to confirm officially that he will seek a second term in office. However, the remarks, which came after he delivered a major speech to the United Nations General Assembly, indicate he is gearing up for an election battle.

Mr Higgins is on a five-day visit to New York where he used his speech at UN headquarters to issue a rallying call for a renewed commitment to global peace-building.

He is also using his visit to make the case to other world leaders for Ireland to win one of the rotating seats on the UN Security Council for the 2021-2022 term.

The President has indicated he will make his intentions in relation to whether he will seek a second term known by July.

He has come under pressure from Senator Gerard Craughwell, who wants to run for the presidency and has called on Mr Higgins to make his own position clear.

Previous incumbents have assumed the office for a second term without election.

Mr Higgins declined to comment when asked whether he believed there should be an election, and said: "Really today is a day for the United Nations and for issues of peace."

He also said: "My decision will be my decision. I'm not standing in the way of anybody making a decision." He added: "I've never run away from a contest in my life. Why should I?"

Earlier, the President delivered an impassioned call for greater efforts to prevent conflict around the world.

He said that if the international community was to "truly commit" to the objective of sustaining peace, it must discard "easy" and "lazy" cynicism. And he said: "The young of the world are appalled by any suggestion... that the strut of the powerful and the wielders of power can prevail."

He cited Northern Ireland and the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement as an example of conflict resolution, but also the challenges of sustaining peace.

Mr Higgins later said Ireland's experience of peace-making was "our strongest card to play" in seeking a UN Security Council seat. He met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the Irish candidacy was among issues they discussed.

Last night, Mr Higgins also raised the Irish bid at a dinner for Small Island Developing States where he spoke of combating climate change. He is due to meet UN secretary general António Guterres today.

Irish Independent

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