Ballagh may join Áras race with SF support

Sat, Jul 23, 2011, 01:00

ARTIST ROBERT Ballagh is considering whether to throw his hat into the ring for the presidency with the support of Sinn Féin and left-wing TDs.

In recent weeks, Mr Ballagh has held talks with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett of the People before Profit Alliance.

Based on these discussions, Mr Ballagh is understood to be seriously considering a run for the presidency, and is confident he can obtain the support of 20 Oireachtas members needed to enter the contest.

Sinn Féin alone has 17 votes and Tipperary Independent Séamus Healy is also enthusiastic about Mr Ballagh’s bid for the presidency. The Socialist Party and People before Profit have responded positively to his potential entry into the race but say they also want to facilitate Independent Senator David Norris in his efforts to obtain the support of 20 Oireachtas members.

Mr Norris yesterday won the support of two more members when Independent Senators Katherine Zappone and Fiach MacConghail said they would nominate him, although they will be voting for Labour’s Michael D Higgins.

Ms Zappone and Mr MacConghail said the electorate should have the choice to vote for Mr Norris if they so wished. Mr MacConghail said he would vote for Michael D Higgins in the election, describing him as “a pioneer of social justice”.

Mr Norris now has 15 indications of support, five short of the number he requires. Fianna Fáil Senator Darragh O’Brien is canvassing party colleagues with a view to securing more signatures.

Mr Ballagh, a lifelong socialist and republican, is contemplating running on a broad left-wing programme, in opposition to economic cutbacks and the bank bailout. His entry into the race would affect the support bases of Mr Higgins and Mr Norris.

The 68-year-old is also highly critical of the failings of the health service. Last week, in a radio interview, he told of how he has been unable to get an explanation for the cause of death of his wife Betty earlier this year. He could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Sinn Féin yesterday repeated that it was considering all options in relation to the presidency, including running its own candidate.

Members of Sligo County Council will meet on Monday to decide whether to nominate any of the Independent candidates.