Tuesday 11 December 2018

Pressure on local councils to help election hopefuls

Presidential election confirmed as SF declares it will run

Sean Gallagher. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Sean Gallagher. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Former presidential candidate Sean Gallagher said he has been inundated with responses from local representatives seeking to nominate a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.

Last week Mr Gallagher wrote to the Mayor and Cathoirleach of every local authority asking that they formally schedule time to hear from potential presidential nominees.

He has been contacted by councillors in 17 local authorities indicating they want their city or county councils to endorse a candidate.

The holding of a contest in the autumn was guaranteed yesterday with Sinn Fein's announcement that it will put forward a candidate to take on the incumbent Michael D Higgins.

Writing in today's Sunday Independent Mr Gallagher says the "centre of gravity" in the nomination process has shifted from the Oireachtas to the 949 councillors across the county.

"As of this weekend, I have been contacted by councillors in 17 different local authorities who have indicated that they have, or are intending to, place on the agenda for the September meeting of their councils, a formal mechanism to allow a presidential candidate be nominated.

"Together, these 17 councils have the power to nominate four independent candidates into the race. I fully expect more councils to follow suit."

This will increase pressure on Fine Gael and Fianna Fail representatives on these councils to facilitate the nomination of candidates. Both parties said they will support Mr Higgins in his campaign to get re-elected. Last week he announced his intention to seek a second term as an Independent candidate.

Fianna Fail is unlikely to extend the party whip to its local representatives and this brings 22 local authorities in to play.

A presidential candidate seeking a nomination must secure the support of four city or county councils to earn a place on the ballot.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald confirmed yesterday the party will put forward a candidate. It put a committee in place, chaired by Waterford TD David Cullinane, to establish a process for selecting a candidate. This process is expected to be outlined in the next 10 days.

Ms McDonald said there has already been considerable interest from a number of potential candidates.

She said it was important the party ran a candidate and that an election was run so young voters could have a say in who the president should be.

The party had been expected to contest the election with a female candidate but Ms McDonald yesterday insisted there is no specific gender preference.

"It won't be solely a consideration of gender but I think any good political decision making now takes account of things like gender but equally it might be a male candidate."

Sunday Independent

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