Champion of Chernobyl victims to run for Presidency


The Labour Party may have asked her to run for the Presidency but Ms Adi Roche, founder of the Chernobyl Children's Project in Cork, has a more popular support base. Her friend and fellow humanitarian, Ms Ali Hewson, wife of U2's Bono, is enthusiastic about her candidacy.

Good friends because of their work together for the children of the radiation zone in Belarus, devastated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of more than a decade ago, the two women have made the world aware of the consequences of the Chernobyl incident.

While Ms Roche has been an outspoken and vocal champion of the cause to bring young Chernobyl victims to Ireland for holidays and to receive medical treatment, Ms Hewson has remained in the background and has given her firm support.

Last night as she was travelling to Dublin to stay with Ms Hewson, Ms Roche told The Irish Times she had received great support from her.

Throughout yesterday her home at St Luke's in Cork was inundated with photographers, and the Roche house from which the Chernobyl Children's Project is run was under siege.

Ms Roche's husband, Sean Dunne, a teacher, said there had been immense interest in the fact that Adi had been asked by the Labour Party to run for the Presidency.

Ms Roche said that throughout the day messages of goodwill had been flooding in.

There had been fax messages, telephone calls and visitors to wish her well and to support her in her bid for the Presidency.

Ms Roche confirmed that she had accepted the nomination and said that while the Labour Party had nominated her, her wish was to be an independent candidate who would cover a broad canvass.

She said she would be in Dublin today to hear the final decision of the party on her nomination.

If accepted, she would hope to follow in the footsteps of Mary Robinson and in doing so bring a wide appeal to the Presidency.

She added that, for her, it was a great honour, and one which she hoped to live up to.

Asked about Dana being a possible opponent in the race, Ms Roche said she would not discuss any other candidate and that her own campaign if it developed would be enough for her to cope with.

Mr Dunne said: "There is a time and a tide and this seems to be the time. Messages are flooding in, and there seems to be a huge surge of support."

Ms Roche (42) yesterday insisted that she would be running as an independent people's candidate if she was nominated by the Labour Party today to contest the election.

"If I get the nomination, I'd hope I would be perceived as an independent candidate. I want to run as the people's candidate," said Ms Roche.

"I'm grateful to Labour for giving me the opportunity to seek a nomination. They are facilitating me.

"But I'm still non-political and I have no political axe to grind," she stressed.

According to Ms Roche, she would, if elected, see her role as continuing the process started by Mary Robinson of instilling a deep sense of pride in being Irish.

"I would see my role as ambassadorial and ceremonial as well as being a guardian of the Constitution.

"I don't have a legal background but I would be very conscious of that," she said.

Ms Roche said she would also be anxious to embrace issues such as justice and peace and the environment as well as reaching out to disadvantaged groups.

"Patricia McKenna and Trevor Sargent of the Greens have both offered their support and Ali Hewson, who is a key member of the project, is 100 per cent behind my nomination," said Ms Roche.

"People seem to be giving me this really very strong message that they want me to be the candidate and I just hope that I can live up to their expectations," she added.

The fact that the Chernobyl Children's Project now had a secure base and was staffed by capable people was a key factor in her decision to allow her name go forward, she said.

She had consulted her husband and her parents, Sean and Christina, as well as many of those involved in the project before making her decision, she said.

Originally from Clonmel, Co Tipperary, but now living in Cork, Ms Roche said she was "excited and humbled" by Mr Dick Spring's approach to get her to run in the presidential election.