Sunday 20 January 2019

Miriam O'Callaghan on top of Fianna Fáil candidate wish list for presidential election

Miriam O’Callaghan
Miriam O’Callaghan

Niall O'Connor

RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan and former news anchor Anne Doyle are among the names being proposed by Fianna Fáil councillors as the party's candidate for next year's presidential election.

A document compiled by councillors and sent to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin reveals how an overwhelming majority (94pc) want the party to contest the race for Áras an Uachtaráin.

Miriam O'Callaghan
Miriam O'Callaghan

However, some have revealed fear of humiliation over putting a celebrity forward for the role.

The document details serious criticisms of the Fianna Fáil's leadership decision not to contest the 2011 presidential election, which was won by Michael D Higgins.

But it also shows a huge disparity of views over who should be put forward as the party's candidate. Among the non-political names proposed by councillors are Ms O'Callaghan, Ms Doyle, Pieta House founder Joan Freeman, Kerry footballer Marc Ó Sé and barrister Noel Whelan. Ms O'Callaghan declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.

Councillors also recommended that consideration be given to selecting former politicians, including Bertie Ahern, Conor Lenihan, Dermot Ahern, Mary O'Rourke and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn. Martin McAleese, the husband of former President Mary McAleese and former TD Síle de Valera also feature on the list.

Among the sitting Oireachtas members cited were TDs Eamon Ó Cuív, Barry Cowen and Timmy Dooley, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Feargháil and senator Mark Daly.

Mr Ó Cuív secured the most support of all of those named.

Former RTE broadcaster Anne Doyle
Former RTE broadcaster Anne Doyle

But the document, obtained by the Irish Independent, illustrates how councillors have mixed views over the prospect of approaching Miriam O'Callaghan. One councillor responded: "Micheál Martin wants Miriam O'Callaghan to run, but I'm not convinced. He wanted Gay Byrne last time and that made us look like clowns."

Another added: "Last time was a farce with FF trying to convince Uncle Gaybo to run. Lesson learned and the last thing we should be doing is going for another media celebrity."

"Focus should be on general election and local elections for 2019. Presidential election may not even happen," said one respondent.

According to the survey, 79pc of respondents said the candidate should be a member of the party.

However, fewer than one in four (24pc) said they believed he or she should be a member of the parliamentary party.

The survey details how some 79pc said they are opposed to the idea of supporting an Independent candidate, while 82pc said they did not support the decision taken not to field a candidate last time round.

The document reflects a survey of 267 councillors in the party carried out over email by the Fianna Fáil Councillors' Forum. Some 130 responded to the survey, which was carried out between December 12-17.

Mr Martin is due to address the issue of whether to select a candidate in the new year.

Irish Independent

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