Mitchell wins Fine Gael nomination for presidency
Gay Mitchell has this afternoon been chosen as Fine Gael's candidate for the presidential election in October.
An estimated 500 Fine Gael delegates gathered at a North Dublin hotel to select the party’s candidate after hearing impassioned speeches made on behalf of the three presidential hopefuls – former European Parliament president Pat Cox and MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Mr Mitchell.
Two counts were held this afternoon with Pat Cox eliminated in the first one. While no exact figures were forthcoming it is believed Mr Mitchell won by 54 per cent of the vote compared to Ms McGuinness' 46 per cent.
Thanking the Fine Gael delegates for selecting him, Mr Mitchell said he was "greatly honoured" to have been chosen to represent the party in the forthcoming election.
"We will take this campaign to every corner of the country, " he said. "We now move to the next stage."
Mr Mitchell also thanked Mr Cox and Ms McGuinness and said that there had been no bitterness between any of the candidates during the campaign.
Commenting on the selection of Mr Mitchell this afternoon, Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan, who had proposed Ms McGuiness, said "Fair play to Gay, he won it fair and square."
Gay Mitchell was proposed earlier today by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, and seconded by Dan Neville TD while others, including former taoiseach John Bruton had also nominated him for the convention.
Citing the oath of office as President during his speech earlier today, he said he did not appeal to any one class but to what John Bruton had called “those who are striving to cope.”
If elected, he would fulfil his oath of office with “every nerve and sinew and every ounce of energy and commitment I have”.
Quoting Rudyard Kipling, he said Ireland had “met with triumph and disaster” and should treat both “impostors just the same”.
Ireland could again become “a country which others will want to emulate”.
“Rights bring with them responsibilities,” he said. Social justice through good education and health services was only possible if the wealth was created to pay for them, he added.
“I also believe in unity in diversity but not a diversity that includes only the politically-correct,” he said.
“I want in inclusive and tolerant Ireland,” he said, where social class or ethnic origin were no disadvantage.
The “mental partition” in Ireland should be brought to an end and he was convinced that the whole of Ireland could hold together for mutual benefit.
“I am a Fine Gael person to the bone,” but as President he would be “an Irish person to the bone," he said.
During his speech earlier this afternoon Mr Cox recalled the “extraordinary victory” for Fine Gael in the general election earlier this year.
Paying tribute to party leader Enda Kenny who took office as Taoiseach on March 9th, he pointed out that four months to the day, the party was choosing its candidate for Áras an Uachtaráin
He said he was “anxious” when he joined the party as to how he might be received but such was the warmth of the welcome he got that he no longer felt like “an outsider”.
There was applause from the floor when Mr Cox said that, if one of the other contenders was chosen he would fully support them in their efforts to win the election.
Mr Cox had been proposed as presidential candidate by Cork TDs Dara Murphy and Aine Collins.
Mairead McGuinness had earlier told delegates she was "honoured and proud to be under consideration for the nomination."
Ms McGuinness had been proposed by Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan and seconded by Laois-Offaly TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.
She said if chosen she would continue the work of President McAleese and Senator Martin McAleese in the peace process, champion research and innovation and would "let the world know that Ireland is open for business”.
“We have talked about our hopes, we have talked about our vision,” she said.