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Robert Ballagh rules out running for President after talks

ARTIST Robert Ballagh last night ruled out running for president as a left-wing candidate opposed to IMF-EU bailout.

Mr Ballagh said his job was "painting canvasses not canvassing votes".

The Government will today announce the date for the presidential election, which is expected to be at the end of October -- a week later than previously announced.

Although three referendums will take place on the same day, the by-election to replace Brian Lenihan is expected to be delayed until next year.

Fine Gael signalled, on the day that Gay Mitchell was selected as its candidate, that the election would be held on October 21. But October 28 is now the likely polling date.

The Government is believed to be taking the extra week as it needs more time to prepare the ground for the referendums on cutting judges pay, whistleblowers protection and extra powers for Oireachtas committees.

The Dublin West by-election is now unlikely to take place on the same day. The Government did bring in a new law to force a by-election to be held within six months of the vacancy arising.

But the law only came into effect yesterday, so won't dictate the date being in 2011.

Mr Ballagh was in talks with Sinn Fein and the United Left Alliance about running for the Presidency. He said he had held meetings about the election "in general" and the possibility of a left-wing candidate being on the ticket. He said he also believed Independent Senator David Norris should be on the ticket.

But the artist told the Irish Independent he had no ambitions -- "none whatsoever" -- to run in the election.

"I'm passionately interested in politics but people feel that develops into an interest in running for public office," the artist said. "Having thought it through, I feel I should leave it to others, who have more distinct political ambitions than I," Mr Ballagh added.


Meanwhile, seven prospective presidential candidates, including Mr Norris and fellow Independents Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher, addressed members of Sligo County Council yesterday in a bid to secure backing for a presidential nomination. Councillors deferred a decision until September.

Mr Gallagher said he would, as President, welcome the Pope to Ireland but would also in that context have "a conversation about the needs of the Irish people".

In the course of his address Mr Gallagher, a founder and former chief-executive of technology company Smarthomes, outlined his background in youth and community work and said he had been inspired by the visit of Pope John Paul to Galway.