Higgins should face a challenge for presidency, Minister says

Finian McGrath claims Independents will field a candidate to oppose the President in 2018

Dublin Central TD Finian McGrath. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dublin Central TD Finian McGrath. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


President Michael D Higgins should not be given a free run for a second term and non-party TDs and senators will nominate a candidate to oppose him, an Independent Minister has said.

Finian McGrath, the super junior Minister who sits at Cabinet, has called on potential candidates for the presidency to approach Independent TDs and senators for a nomination.

The Dublin Central TD’s comments come after Mr Higgins indicated that he is considering seeking a second term.

A presidential election is due in October 2018 and when he first ran in 2011, Mr Higgins said he would only serve one term. But when asked about his intentions last week, the President said: “What I can say is that the only change in the circumstances is that nothing is ruled out.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would wait and see if Mr Higgins wants to run again before deciding if Fine Gael should field a candidate.

Before he became Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar had said Mr Higgins would attract “cross-party” support if he decides to seek a second seven-year term in Áras an Uachtaráin.

However, Mr McGrath said the Independent Alliance is willing throw its support behind a non-party candidate. A presidential candidate needs the support of 20 members of the Dáil or Seanad to get on the ballot paper.

“I do think it is important that if we are having a presidential race that there is an open race and people are allowed the opportunity to stand,” Mr McGrath said.

“There are a lot of people out there who would have an interest and it would be nice to see an Independent person, not associated with any political party, standing for election.

“We had a number of Independents in the last presidential election. If there is someone with a vision for the country, who has progressive and sensible ideas, the Independent Alliance would be absolutely open to supporting that person.

“We need to see the younger generation as well represented in politics, and also in relation to the presidency.”

There are 23 Independents in the Dáil, and more in the Seanad. If an Independent candidate were to challenger Mr Higgins, other candidates from political parties would likely enter the contest.

Potential candidate

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is often mentioned as a potential Fine Gael candidate, if there is a contest.

Political sources believe Mr Higgins will have to decide whether to seek a second term by next spring and say he is likely to make his views known either later this year or early next year.

Mr Varadkar last month said Mr Higgins has done a “fabulous job”.

“The thing we don’t know yet, is whether President Higgins is going to renominate himself. A sitting President is independent and has the authority under the Constitution to nominate himself for re-election. I think he has done a fabulous job as President ,” he said.

“It is an advantage as a young Taoiseach to have an experienced President to bounce things off and consult with. So the first decision – before we even think about other candidates – is to see whether President Higgins nominates himself.”