TDs give up attempts to agree Áras contender

Sat, Sep 10, 2011, 01:00

INDEPENDENT TDs have abandoned attempts to find an agreed candidate they could support in the presidential election.

After a summer-long search for a candidate around whom most of them might unite, the Independents are now preparing to go their own way in supporting existing candidates, or none at all. They are also split on a possible re-entry into the contest of Senator David Norris.

An informal meeting of some of the 11 Independents yesterday agreed to meet Dana Rosemary Scallon, Special Olympics founder Mary Davis and Trócaire chief executive Justin Kilcullen about their ambitions to be president.

However, the meetings are being arranged “for the sake of politeness”, according to one TD, and are not expected to lead to formal expressions of support. In any case, Ms Davis is poised to secure a nomination by obtaining the required support of four county councils and so does not need the backing of Independent TDs.

Most of the Independents would have little in common politically with Dana, while Mr Kilcullen’s bid is seen as coming “very late in the day”, according to one TD.

Dublin Independent TD Finian McGrath said the group had decided to meet Dana out of respect to the people who had contacted them in relation to her desire to run again for the presidency.

He added that he had spoken to a number of potential candidates this week and had a face-to-face meeting with one of the declared runners. He intended to decide next week who to support in the election.

Catherine Murphy, Independent TD for Kildare North, acknowledged the Independents were not united in their approach.

Ms Murphy and Mr McGrath said they wouldn’t be going back on their earlier withdrawal of support for Mr Norris, though Mr McGrath said he recognised there was support for the TCD Senator in the broader society.

Both deputies stopped backing Mr Norris after it emerged the Senator had made representations in a rape case in Israel.

Mr McGrath acknowledged some of his Independent colleagues in the Dáil still supported Mr Norris and would like to see him re-enter the race.

However, he predicted Mr Norris would find it very difficult to get the support of the 20 Oireachtas members he needs to secure a nomination.

Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins said he would still support Mr Norris if he were to re-enter the race but he couldn’t be certain that others who had previously backed him would do so.

He said it was possible fellow members of the United Left Alliance wouldn’t be signing the nomination papers of any candidate because it was looking impossible to find a left-wing candidate who could muster the required 20 signatures.

Mr Higgins said he would not support a Sinn Féin candidate if that party decides to run one.

Sinn Féin has 17 Oireachtas members and would need another three signatures to secure a nomination.

Ms Murphy said she wouldn’t support a Sinn Féin candidate either.

“If it’s just about the four declared candidates, this election will turn into a long yawn with no issues, a beauty contest between established parties and interests,” Mr Higgins predicted.

While speculation is mounting that Sinn Féin will field a candidate, Mary Lou McDonald, the party’s TD for Dublin Central, said she would not be running.