Labour to choose between Higgins and Finlay as presidential candidate


LABOUR WILL choose either former TD Michael D Higgins or Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay as the party’s candidate for the presidential election next month, once the Seanad elections are complete.

Mr Higgins said he thought he had enough support within the parliamentary party and Labour’s executive board to become the nominee, and he expected the party would take a decision in April.

“I believe I have enough support to secure the nomination. I’ve received a lot of support from outside the party. Individual members of other parties have expressed support for the idea of me being president,” he said.

Mr Finlay, the party’s former senior adviser, could not be reached for comment yesterday but he has also declared his intention to seek the Labour nomination to contest an election when President Mary McAleese’s second term of office ends in November.

Labour’s Coalition partner Fine Gael will also run a candidate, with three names being mentioned as potential candidates. They are former taoiseach John Bruton and MEPs Maireád McGuinness and Seán Kelly.

Mr Kelly, former president of the GAA and first cousin to Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s wife Fionnuala O’Kelly, said: “Fine Gael has asked me to consider it. I’m one of a number of candidates in their orbit. I told them I’ll consider it. I’m very committed to Europe. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into mastering the position, but if the nation comes calling, you’d have to consider it.”

Mr Bruton and Ms McGuinness could not be contacted yesterday. Fine Gael is expected to address the issue after Easter.

Fianna Fáil has not taken a decision about the presidency. Speaking about the matter in the aftermath of the general election, party leader Micheál Martin said: “I don’t see it [the presidency] in the modern era as just a party thing. I think we need to pick the best president to represent Ireland abroad.”

In the event of Fianna Fáil running a candidate, MEP Brian Crowley has been mentioned as the most likely.

“He has expressed an interest in the position but hasn’t made a decision and is not addressing the matter until the elections are over, by which he means the Seanad elections,” his spokesman said yesterday.

The Seanad poll closes on April 27th.

Eight presidents have served to date: six men followed by two women. There has not been a presidential election for 14 years, since Mrs McAleese was inaugurated in 1997. She was sworn in for a second term in 2004.

Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has previously said she had never intimated to anyone that she had any interest whatsoever in running, “and that remains the situation”, she said yesterday.

Special Olympics chief Mary Davis has said she would seriously consider any approach to run.

Dana Rosemary Scallon said in January she had not ruled out running. The former MEP and Eurovision winner received almost 14 per cent of the vote when she ran in 1997, coming third after Mrs McAleese and former Fine Gael MEP Mary Banotti.

Sinn Féin is not expected to run a candidate.