Cox opens campaign to win FG presidential nomination


FORMER EUROPEAN Parliament president Pat Cox is basing his campaign for the Fine Gael nomination for the presidency on his claim to be the candidate most likely to win the election for the party.

Formally launching his bid for the nomination just three days after joining Fine Gael, Mr Cox yesterday suggested members who used their head to choose a candidate who had a “burning desire” to win would support him.

He said he was seeking support “with much hope and humility” but denied he had been “plucked as some insiders’ favourite” to stand for the party. Mr Cox, a former Progressive Democrats MEP, made his announcement at a press conference in Dublin’s Mansion House yesterday.

He was introduced by his local TD in Cork North Central, Dara Murphy, and accompanied on the podium by his wife Cathy and Senator Colm Burke.

He expressed confidence he would get enough support within the party to put his name forward to the selection convention next month, but admitted he faced an uphill struggle to win the party nomination.

More than half the 20 members of the Oireachtas needed for a nomination had indicated they would sign his papers, he said.

Meanwhile, Labour is set to select its candidate at a convention tomorrow. The decision will be made by 54 members of the parliamentary party and 14 members of the executive board. There are three candidates: former minister Michael D Higgins, Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay and former senator Kathleen O’Meara.

Mr Cox is the third candidate to enter the field for the Fine Gael nomination, after MEPs Mairéad McGuinness and Gay Mitchell.

He said his candidacy was a “one-shot opportunity”; either he got the Fine Gael nomination or he wouldn’t stand, even as an Independent, but he promised to remain a member of the party in the event he failed.

His speech was applauded by supporters but apart from former MEP Mary Banotti and Lord Mayor Gerry Breen, who was hosting the event, no prominent Fine Gael representatives were present. Mr Cox, whose application to join Fine Gael was approved last Tuesday, said he had not asked anyone from the party to attend.

Mr Murphy said he was now “one of our own” in Fine Gael and would make an excellent candidate and a wonderful president.

Mr Cox said the next president could make a significant contribution to national renewal and could offer the people “an anchor of stability” in difficult times.

“I believe that the next presidency should be one of unremitting hard work and intensive public service at home, while vigorously championing Ireland’s cause abroad.

“If accorded the privilege to serve as Ireland’s next president, I will use all my skills, insights and expertise to do so.”

He said he understood the feelings of some Fine Gael members about his role in the PDs. However, it was more important for the party and the country to look to the future rather than dwelling on the past.

Asked about his membership of the Spinelli Group, which advocates closer European integration, Mr Cox said that as president he would uphold and defend the interests of Ireland.

He believed the process of integration needed to be paused to allow for consolidation.

Mr Cox said Irish people were entitled to know that the person they were electing as president was a person of ethical probity and deep personal integrity.

“I have integrity, I have values, I have ethics and I’m determined to be the next president of Ireland,” he concluded.

FG fears all-out internal war over presidential runner: Stephen Collins, page 13