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Special Olympics chief to seek a run for President

Mary Davis, who brought the Special Olympics to Ireland in 2003, is seeking a nomination to run as an independent candidate in this year's presidential election.

Ms Davis, currently the managing director of Special Olympics Europe and Eurasia, has written to local authorities around the country seeking their support. Under election legislation, she will need either the support of four county councils or 20 members of the Oireachtas for her candidacy.

Davis was CEO of the 2003 Special Olympics in Dublin and later served as CEO of Special Olympics Ireland. She has served on a number of government bodies and in 2004 was appointed to the Council of State by President Mary McAleese.

Her arrival in the presidential race, which she officially announced this morning, adds another big name to an already crowded contest. Independent senator David Norris has already begun looking for nominations from local authorities as well as TDs and Senators while former Dragon's Den judge Sean Gallagher recently announced his candidacy on The Late Late Show.

Another possible Independent candidate is the former president of the European parliament Pat Cox. Three people - Michael D Higgins, Fergus Finlay and former senator Kathleen O'Meara - are seeking the Labour Party nomination, while Fine Gael have received expressions of interest from MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Sean Kelly.

Former Taoiseach John Bruton is also considering the possibility of running for Fine Gael. Fianna Fail has yet to decide whether to run a candidate. If it does, MEP Brian Crowley is regarded as the party's most likely candidate.

At her press conference this morning Davis (56) described herself as an "agent of change" and "not a politican in the conventional sense".

Ireland currently needed a strong advocate around the world, she said, and as president she would be able to play this role. She had experience of dealing with international organisations like the EU, with which she had negotiated in the past in her various roles with the Special Olympics.

She said she had been in contact with all the political parties about her candidacy and would be seeking the nomination through the county council route. She planned to make use of the internet in her campaign, which she said she would run "Obama-style".

Asked on RTE's The News At One about the prospect of having "three Marys in a row" in the Aras, Davis pointed out that Ireland has had eight presidents since the foundation of the state, six of whom has been men. "It [the presidency] shouldn't be a gender issue,"she said.