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Saturday 20 January 2018

Spare a thought for councillors as hopefuls queue to court them

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

NEVER before in the field of Irish politics have so many county councillors been so loved by so few.

Almost 1,000 sit on local authorities around the country, and they will be courted by at least three presidential wannabes over the coming weeks.

Speeches will be made, tears will be shed, hearts will be broken -- all for the prize of getting into the Aras race proper.

Mary Davis, head of the Special Olympics in Europe and Central Asia, and who spearheaded the successful event here in Ireland in 2003, yesterday became the third candidate looking for an independent nomination.

They each hope to get the support of the four county councils needed to get on the ballot paper, with Ms Davis shunning the atlernative of getting the support of 20 Oireachtas members.

But spare a thought for the councillors. In the Bible, the Egyptians are hit with 10 plagues and our local representatives must be feeling the same these days.

In recent weeks, they've experienced the first plague, as swarms of politicians -- councillors like themselves, failed general election candidates, and outgoing senators -- knocked on doors.

The would-be members of the 24th Seanad hounded our put-upon councillors for a vote. And as the lucky few convened for the first sitting of the Seanad this week, the councillors could have been forgiven for breathing easily, having seen off the first plague.

But there'll be no rest before the second plague -- in the form of Ms Davis, David Norris and Sean Gallagher of 'Dragon's Den' fame -- hovers into view. And there is also speculation that former Eurovision-winning warbler Dana is to throw her hat in again, having failed twice in previous efforts.

Ms Davis had been expected to announce her candidacy -- and she had been linked to Fianna Fail, although this would be the electoral equivalent of being sprayed by a skunk.


"I'm standing as Independent, I don't have any political affiliations whatsoever," she said at her official launch yesterday in the National Library, Dublin.

"I'll be looking for support from across all political parties when I go and talk to the county councillors over the coming weeks and months."

David Norris shot to the top of a poll conducted for RTE's 'Liveline' yesterday, just ahead of Dr Martin McAleese, Mary McAleese's husband, who has expressed no interest in the position. All of which means Ms Davis, who also sits on the Council of State and is chairperson of an active citizenship taskforce, has a lot of work to do to get herself into contention.

She said she would use her presidency to improve community spirit and represent Ireland abroad.

"At this point in time in Ireland's history the role of the President has never been more relevant or important. The momentous events of recent weeks show clearly that our President can play an instrumental role -- a central role -- in changing our country for the better, in promoting peace at home and in building closer relationships on the international stage," she said.

So the race is on.

Irish Independent

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