Thursday 18 January 2018

Varadkar hints at second term for President

Michael D Higgins. Photo: Mark Condren
Michael D Higgins. Photo: Mark Condren
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has strongly hinted he would back Michael D Higgins for a second term as President.

Mr Higgins (76) is expected to indicate later this year whether he wants to stay in Áras an Uachtaráin until 2025.

During his successful election campaign in 2011, the former arts minister said that he would be a one-term president - but since taking office has repeatedly refused to rule out seeking another stint.

His seven-year term is due to end in November 2018.

Asked whether Fine Gael would consider putting former Taoiseach Enda Kenny forward as a candidate for the presidency, Mr Varadkar replied: "The most important aspect of that, the thing we don't know yet, is whether President Higgins is going to re-nominate himself.

"A sitting president is independent and has the authority under the Constitution to nominate himself for re-election."

He said that Mr Higgins had done "a fabulous job" as head of State.

"I have really liked working alongside him and we had our first Section 28 meeting there a few weeks ago, and I really already lean on his advice and his experience.

"It is an advantage as a young Taoiseach to have an experienced president to bounce things off and consult with," the 38-year-old said.

"So the first decision - before we even think about other candidates - is to see whether President Higgins nominates himself."

Mr Varadkar's comments were last night interpreted by party colleagues as a "light endorsement" of the former Labour TD for a second term.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have yet to indicate whether they intend to put forward candidates for an election.

Mr Higgins's predecessor in the role, Mary McAleese, was automatically granted a second term in office after nobody ran against her in 2004.

Regardless of whether there is a presidential election, Mr Varadkar has indicated voters will be going to the polls at least twice next year.

He said that the Government was planning "a series of referendums".

"There are eight or nine referendums that are kind of in the system.

"There is no date for when they are going to be held. So we'll set out a schedule.

"The windows that we have in mind are around June-July next year, another set in November at the same time as the presidential election and then another set in May or June 2019, at the same time as the local and European elections."

Among the votes to be held will be the contentious question of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Speaking about his plans for the rest of the year, Mr Varadkar said the Government hoped to pass up to 30 pieces of legislation.

He said that the Budget would be held on October 10, followed by the announcement of a new National Development Plan in late November/early December, and also the capital spending plan.

Irish Independent

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