Howlin suggests President Higgins will publish expenses

Labour leader says party will act as ‘ground troops’ in upcoming presidential election

Brendan Howlin  said he spoke to President Higgins in recent days, and predicted a “broad coalition” will back his re-election. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Brendan Howlin said he spoke to President Higgins in recent days, and predicted a “broad coalition” will back his re-election. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

President Michael D Higgins will have no difficulty in publishing his expenses and costs associated with Áras an Uachtaráin, Labour leader Brendan Howlin has said.

Mr Howlin said he spoke to President Higgins in recent days, and predicted a “broad coalition” will back his re-election.

Although Mr Higgins was a Labour Party candidate when he was elected in 2011, he will stand in the election on October 26th as an Independent candidate. As the outgoing president, he can nominate himself.

The President has faced calls to publish his expenses and Mr Howlin gave a heavy hint at the opening of the Labour pre-Dáil think in that he would do so.

“I would be surprised if there is any difficulty in doing that,” he said. He also said Labour would be Mr Higgins’s “ground troops” in the election campaign.

His comments came after Sinn Féin unveiled Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada as its candidate for the presidency.

Ms Ní Riada says she will help to lead public debate on Irish unity if she succeeds Mr Higgins in Áras an Uachtaráin.

At an event to announce her candidacy – at which no questions from the media were permitted – Ms Ní Riada placed heavy emphasis on the issue of Irish unity and said she would be an “energetic” president.

She said that “partition will be overcome”, adding: “The tide of history is with those seeking to build a new, progressive and inclusive future.

‘Leading by example’

“I will be a positive voice for Irish unity, leading by example and demonstrating the outreach and inclusivity needed to bring the people of this island together.

“Increasingly the prospect, shape and nature of a united Ireland will be a feature of public discussion and political decision making. As president, I will initiate an inclusive citizens’ conversation on a future united Ireland.”

Separately, she told the Irish Examiner that she sees the Troubles as a “natural progression” from the War of Independence.

“I am from a republican area in north west Cork, which has had its own history of violent struggles during the War of Independence and I see what happened in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, even though I was a teenager at the time, as a natural progression on to that,” she said.

Despite polls showing Mr Higgins having a commanding lead, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said: “We are fighting this campaign to win.”

Ms Ní Riada’s selection means there will be at least five people on the presidential ballot paper.

Two businessmen – Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy – are running as Independent candidates, as is Senator Joan Freeman. The trio all secured the required endorsement of four local councils to officially become candidates.

Sinn Féin has the required 20 TDs or senators in the Oireachtas to name its own candidate.

Retain hope

A range of other would-be Independent candidates still retain hope of convincing undeclared councils to back their bids before the September 26th deadline.

Louth, Kerry, Kilkenny and Westmeath county councils will meet on Monday to decide whether to nominate a candidate for the presidency. Mr Duffy has asked Louth to reschedule another hearing for aspiring candidates who have not secured a nomination.

At the event on Sunday to mark the start of her campaign, Ms Ní Riada also said she would be a “voice for a caring Ireland”.

“An Ireland where every child has a home. An Ireland that leaves no one behind.”

“I want to be a new president for a new Ireland. Ireland has radically changed since the last presidential election. We’ve become a more caring and inclusive society. A global inspiration when it comes to progressive social change.”