Tuesday 17 September 2019

Political pundit to decide on making a run for the Áras

Noel Whelan is considering standing for the presidency. Picture: David Conachy
Noel Whelan is considering standing for the presidency. Picture: David Conachy
John Downing

John Downing

Lawyer and political pundit Noel Whelan is seriously considering standing for the presidency, he has confirmed.

Mr Whelan, a former Fianna Fáil candidate for the Dáil and once a full-time party adviser, is considering seeking the support of four councils to stand as an Independent in the election expected on October 26 next.

Incumbent President Michael D Higgins and a Sinn Féin candidate yet to be chosen, are already set to stand.

But the race is hotting up as a number of other names are emerging and some are likely to seek the nomination of either 20 TDs or Senators, or the other pathway to the ballot paper via the nomination of four local councils. The council nomination route is expected to be eased further tomorrow when Fine Gael's governing national council is expected to avoid banning their councillors from endorsing an independent presidential candidate.

Fianna Fáil has already backed away from issuing a ban on its councillors endorsing an independent, despite President Higgins being backed by the party leadership. But the leadership of both "big parties" have endorsed Mr Higgins's candidature.

Mr Whelan, a native of Wexford, where his father was also a Fianna Fáil councillor, has told the Irish Independent he considered standing earlier this year in deliberations based on the assumption that Mr Higgins may not seek a second seven-year term. He writes a weekly political column in the 'The Irish Times' and features regularly on radio and television while also working as a barrister at the law courts.

"I am engaged in a number of conversations on the matter and I will decide in the next week or 10 days," Mr Whelan told the Irish Independent. It is understood he fears neither President Higgins nor a Sinn Féin candidate can lead a much-needed national debate in the campaign.

Sinn Féin is considering running John Finucane, the son of murdered solicitor Pat Finucane. Aged 38, he is a solicitor and brother of civil rights lawyer Michael Finucane.

He polled well in North Belfast against DUP stalwart Nigel Dodds during the UK election last year. Sinn Féin announced last Saturday it will contest the presidential election.

A committee has now been put in place to field candidates, chaired by Waterford TD David Cullinane. Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan ruled herself out but her Brussels colleague Liadh Ní Riada, who is the Sinn Féin MEP for Ireland South and a native Irish speaker, is a potential contender.

Others being talked about are Independent senators Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who founded Aer Arran, and Gerard Craughwell, along with former participant in RTÉ's 'Dragons' Den' Gavin Duffy.

Irish Independent

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