SF candidate Liadh Ní Riada calls on Michael D Higgins to join election debates

MEP hands in nomination papers, joining five others in the running for Irish presidency

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald (right) with the party’s presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada as she hands in her nomination papers at the Custom House in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald (right) with the party’s presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada as she hands in her nomination papers at the Custom House in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Presidential candidate Liadh Ní Riada has called on President Michael D Higgins to participate in debates during the election campaign.

Ms Ní Riada said a debate was necessary among the candidates.

The Sinn Féin candidate made the comments as she handed in her nomination papers at Dublin’s Custom House on Monday, officially kick-starting her campaign.

She was joined by party leader Mary Lou McDonald and finance spokesman Pearse Doherty as she made her way to register her papers.

“It is only right that people need to hear what the candidates have to say and lay out their vision for a new Ireland,” Ms Ní Riada said.

The Sinn Féin MEP is one of six candidates in the running for the highest office in the State.

President Higgins, who has launched a bid for a second term in office, has not confirmed whether he will take part in any debates in the run-up to polling day.

The first debate is expected to take place on RTÉ Radio’s News at One programme on Wednesday.

Dragons’ Den businessman Seán Gallagher has threatened to pull out of any debate that Mr Higgins was not part of it.

It is the second time Mr Gallagher is running against Mr Higgins for the role.

In 2011, Mr Gallagher was one of six candidates to lose out to Michael D Higgins in the last election.

Last year, national broadcaster RTÉ apologised to Mr Gallagher over a tweet read out during a live TV debate during the last election campaign.

The tweet was purported to be from an official account linked to the late Martin McGuinness, who also ran for president in 2011.

However, it later emerged the account was not the official campaign account of the Sinn Féin candidate.

Ms Ní Riada said that if Mr Gallagher chose not to be part of any debates, it would be his loss.

“The people of Ireland need to hear what all the candidates have to say,” she said, adding, “It just makes perfect sense really, people deserve a debate.”

Two of Mr Gallagher’s former Dragons’ Den colleagues – businessmen Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey – and the founder of Pietà House suicide prevention charity senator Joan Freeman are also running for election to hold the office for the next seven years.

Presidential hopefuls have until Wednesday at noon to register their nominations.

The election will take place on October 26th. – PA