Independent TDs and Senators fail to agree on presidential nomination process

Fianna Fáil TD says he is likely to vote for Seán Gallagher in the presidential election

Michael Fitzmaurice spent several weeks trying to put the group together with a view to supporting a candidate. File photograph: Alan Betson

Michael Fitzmaurice spent several weeks trying to put the group together with a view to supporting a candidate. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

Possibilities of a seventh candidate being added to the ballot paper for the presidential election receded last night when an effort to bring together a group of 20 TDs and Senators to support a nomination failed.

The Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice and Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell convened a meeting in Leinster House in an effort to assemble a group of Independent and non-aligned parliamentarians to support a candidate.

In all, 19 TDs and Senators were willing to become involved, but the effort broke down amid disagreement over the voting system, and doubts among some over backing candidates that might emerge from the process.

In a statement, issued by Mr Fitzmaurice and Mr Craughwell, they said: “A robust debate took place to explore a mechanism that could be used to make the nomination possible.

“After considering a wide range of views it became clear it would not be possible to secure agreement for any prospective nominee.”

Mr Fitzmaurice has spent several weeks trying to put the group together with a view to supporting a candidate. Under the Constitution, an individual can be nominated for the election if supported by a minimum of 20 Oireachtas members.

In the end, there were 19 TDs and Senators named in the statement: Maureen O’Sullivan; Joan Collins; Michael Harty; Mattie McGrath; Victor Boyhan; Tommy Broughan: Ian Marshall; Michael Collins: Danny Healy Rae; Sean Canney; Catherine Connolly; Pádraig Ó Céidigh; Michael Fitzmaurice, Gerard Craughwell; Carol Nolan; David Norris; Brian Ó Domhnaill; Denis Naughten; and Finian McGrath.

With that window closed, the prospects of any further individuals being nominated now look increasingly slim. Sources in Donegal County Council said it would not now proceed with a special meeting to nominate for the presidency. That leaves just only five councils that have yet to make a final determination.

The most prominent individual still seeking nomination is the journalist Gemma O’Doherty. She said on Wednesday she was very hopeful that council would do the right thing.

“It’s their democratic duty to nominate somebody and we need a democratic election,” she said.

“They have heard my presentation. I can only do so much. If they don’t want to nominate anybody it is disgraceful. We have three Dragons, a Senator, a Sinn Féin MEP and the incumbent.”

“We need an independent candidate. I am standing for integrity in public office. We only do this once in seven years. It is not much too ask.”

Ms O’Doherty has attracted criticism for her claims that the State was involved in Veronica Guerin’s murder. Ms Guerin’s siblings have angrily denounced her allegations.

She said 15 of the 31 local authorities had made no decision or decided not to nominate anyone. The next local authority to decide on the issue is South Dublin County Council which meets on Thursday.

Fianna Fáil TD’s backing for Gallagher

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil TD has said he is likely to vote for Seán Gallagher in the presidential election despite Micheál Martin saying his parliamentary party will support Michael D Higgins’ re-election campaign.

Mr Gallagher attended a protest outside Leinster House on Wednesday on pay levels in the Defence Forces.

A number of Fianna Fáil TDs, including party frontbenchers Niall Collins and Willie O’Dea, posed for pictures with Mr Gallagher, which were later posted on social media.

Kildare North TD James Lawless tweeted that he was at the “protest outside the Dáil with the next commander in chief” in a reference to Mr Gallagher – who was once a member of Fianna Fáil. Mr Lawless later said he will “probably” vote for Mr Gallagher.

Mr Martin earlier this summer said his party would be supporting Michael D Higgins, although he later said Fianna Fáil councillors were free to facilitate the entry into the presidential election of those who want to stand against him.