Wednesday 23 January 2019

Noel Whelan withdraws from 'one-horse race'

Noel Whelan: ‘no immediate plans to get involved in politics’
Noel Whelan: ‘no immediate plans to get involved in politics’

David Looby

Political pundit, Noel Whelan, from Ballycullane, has ruled himself out of running for the presidency, saying going up against an incumbent like Michael D Higgins swayed him against the tilt.

Mr Whelan, 49, strongly considered running for the role of president of Ireland earlier this year and again after Michael D Higgins declared his intention to retain his position in Áras an Uachtaráin, for which he is paid €250,000 a year.

Mr Whelan, who takes silks in August having worked as a barrister for 19 years, said he believed he could re-purpose the role of president to champion the rights of people on the fringes of society.

'Myself and a group of people who worked on the referendum campaigns had been looking at this in January and February. After several weeks we decided we wouldn't seek to mount a campaign.'

When Michael D announced his intention to run in late June, and with no Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael candidate declared, Mr Whelan and his team reconsidered running. 'Given my own background and my family's background in politics and my own connections with my brother I knew I would have had an opportunity to get a nomination through a council ballot paper.'

He said having assessed his chances all indications were that Michael D Higgins would get re-elected in a 'one horse race', adding that he did not want to waste the time of his family and campaign team on a presidential campaign.

Mr Whelan said he felt he would have been very suited to the role.

'I have watched the political system since I was a teenager and have been active in politics, having run for the General Election in 1997. I have been a political campaigner and was an advocate on European affairs in Government for a peroid and I have spent 20 years practising criminal and constitutional law. As president you can do an awful lot of things and have a big impact on people's lives.'

The family man said: 'There is a task in persuading people you are qualified for any job. Sometimes people can pigeon-hole you. I am from a family of 12 and if I didn't have a strong work ethic and if I didn't have the courage to put myself in a position to do these things in politics, or otherwise, I wouldn't have considered running. At the end of the day everyone has to be able to think of themselves as being capable of reaching the heights that they can reach.'

He is not ruling out running in the 2025 Presidential elections, saying: 'Seven years is a long time in politics: who knows? I have no other immediate plans to get involved in politics.'

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