President says decision on second term will be clear by September 2018

Higgins clarifies remarks, says he is ‘not impediment’ to others running for Áras

Speaking during his State visit to Australia, President Michael D. Higgins says he will "take everything into account" before announcing if he is to run for a second term in office. Video: Simon Carswell

 

President Michael D Higgins has clarified his remarks on whether he would seek a second term, saying his decision would be known by the 2018 National Ploughing Championships next September.

Speaking on his first day of formal engagements of his State visit to Australia, Mr Higgins said when asked about the issue last month he did not say that he would make his decision at the 2018 National Ploughing Championships but that his decision would be known by then.

The President appeared to suggest his decision to seek re-election would be announced before the championships. The President said he was not seeking to be an impediment to others running for the office.

Mr Higgins said he had a full programme of events into the late spring of next year and he would concentrate on those before making a decision on running for a second term.

President Michael D Higgins signs a visitor book during a welcome ceremony with the Governor of Western Australia Kerry Sanderson. Photograph: Maxwells
President Michael D Higgins signs a visitor book during a welcome ceremony with the Governor of Western Australia Kerry Sanderson. Photograph: Maxwells

“When the time comes at an appropriate time, I will say what it is. I will take everything into account. I will decide what it is how I might best contribute to Irish society at that time,” he said on Monday.

“I emphasise as well that I did not say, for example, ever that it would have to wait until the ploughing championship next year. I said that by then the information on what I was doing would be available. They are not the same thing.”

Mr Higgins said he would “just get on with it” until then and stressed he would not be “an impediment” to anybody else wishing to run as a candidate in the election.

“We are in a democracy and a republic after all,” he said.

The President said during the 2011 presidential election campaign that he would only stand for a single seven-year term.

Since then has refused to rule out the possibility of seeking re-election.

He told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke at the National Ploughing Championships last month the public would have “a very good idea” of whether he would run for a second term by the time of the next ploughing championships in September 2018.

This was interpreted as meaning that he might not announce his decision until then, forcing others to declare their candidacy before Mr Higgins would re-nominate himself.

The next presidential election is due to be held in October 2018.

His remarks led some in political circles to suggest the President was planning to wait for potential rivals to declare publicly if they want to stand against him before he decided.

The latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll published on Saturday showed 64 per cent of voters said that the former Labour TD should be returned unopposed to Áras an Uachtaráin for another seven years. Some 29 per cent said that he should not.

Mr Higgins told reporters after unveiling of a memorial to the Irish Famine in Subiaco, a city next to Perth, that he was “very much given strength” by the support from the Irish public.

A number of people in the crowd of Irish-Australians at the event said they would support the 76-year-old President running for a second term.

“I love Michael D,” said Paul North, who is originally from Wexford and now owns JB O’Reilly’s Irish pub in Perth. “He is a true ambassador for Ireland…. I think he should stand unopposed.”