Wednesday 21 March 2018

Momentum grows for Higgins to get seven more years

President Michael D Higgins
President Michael D Higgins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Momentum for Michael D Higgins to get a second term as President is growing, despite a decision by an independent Senator to enter the race for Áras an Uachtaráin.

A presidential election is not due until October next year -but speculation is mounting in political circles that Mr Higgins will go back on his promise to be a one-term office holder.

Yesterday, the Irish Independent revealed that Senator Gerard Craughwell will seek a nomination if the incumbent decides he wants another seven years.

Mr Craughwell said the former arts minister has been a "marvellous president" but he believes he should stick to his word.

His intervention sparked a wide debate about Mr Higgins's position, with senior figures in Fine Gael saying they believe he would "walk" an election.

A Fianna Fáil source also said they expected that the President "would have huge backing to go again".

RTÉ's 'Liveline' ran a text poll, which received over 3,500 responses, of which 63pc backed the 76-year-old to remain until 2025.

However, Mr Craughwell said he had been "quite taken aback" by the positive response he received to his declaration.

"There seems to be a desire there to have an election. Even during the radio programmes the people calling in were very positive, saying they wouldn't necessarily vote for me but they wanted an election," he said.

Mr Craughwell, who is a former president of the TUI, said he had received many phone calls from people offering to help him establish a campaign.

Mr Higgins (inset) was nominated by the Labour Party in 2011 and won after a gruelling campaign, which saw several of his rivals embroiled in controversy.

Labour Party senator Kevin Humphreys said the Galway native was put forward because the party believed he would do the country proud.

"The years since have seen him do exactly that. He has been a fantastic voice for Ireland, on the international stage and at home," Mr Humphreys said.

"The decision is one for the President himself to make.

"But as Brendan Howlin has repeatedly made clear, we would be delighted to see him seek a second term and would be proud to campaign on his behalf once more."

Senator Humphreys pointed to a recent opinion poll which said that two-thirds of people would support Mr Higgins.

However, he added: "Of course it is open to Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin or groups of independents to make their own decisions on whether they wish to contest an election.

"I think most people would certainly prefer Michael D to Bertie Ahern."

In order to get a nomination, Mr Craughwell would need the support of at least 20 members of the Oireachtas or four local authorities.

He said he has not yet approached any of his colleagues in Leinster House to gain support but indicated that he may do so after the summer recess.

Mr Higgins has not declared his intentions.

But in contrast to his pre-election promise, he is so far ruling nothing out.

Irish Independent

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