SF to run presidential candidate but not Gerry Adams - McDonald
Michael D Higgins expected to confirm by July if he intends to seek second term
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and deputy leader Michelle O’Neill outside Belfast City Hall last month. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Féin is set to put forward a candidate for the next presidential election but it won’t be Gerry Adams, party leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.
President Michael D Higgins has not confirmed whether he intends to seek a second term in office but it is understood he has notified political leaders he may require their support.
A number of individuals have come forward expressing an interest in running for the office of president.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms McDonald said the party is expected to reach an official position soon but it was her view that there should be a contest.
However, she insisted the party’s candidate would not be former president of Sinn Féin Gerry Adams.
Ms McDonald said: “I have said consistently as a matter of principle I think that Uachtaráin na hÉireann, you know, that there should be an election.
“I don’t favour this idea that somebody just moves from one term of office into another automatically, I think it’s healthier to have the debate. Not least because the campaigns like that allow for broader political debates than we have in general election campaigns. So as a matter of principle, I think there ought to be an election.”
While expressing her admiration for Mr Higgins, Ms McDonald said the party had identified candidates for the role but it must adopt an official position first.
Asked who it may put forward, the Sinn Féin leader said the party has “ loads of candidates” but stressed her predecessor will not be one of them.
Senior figures in the party elaborated on Ms McDonald’s comments stressing it was Sinn Féin’s position that Mr Higgins should be given the space and time to consider his intentions.
However, if a contest was to take place the party would participate, the source added.
A number of politicians have already said they will challenge Mr Higgins. One of those, Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell, claims to have the support of the 20 members of the Oireachtas required to get on the ballot paper for a presidential election.
Others who have expressed an interest include artist Kevin Sharkey, while Fine Gael MEPs Mairead McGuinness and Seán Kelly have recently said they would like to be considered if Fine Gael runs a candidate.
As the incumbent Mr Higgins can nominate himself for a second term.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said he will wait until the President publicly outlines his position before deciding if his party will stand a candidate.
However, it will be extremely difficult for Fianna Fail not to participate if Sinn Féin decide to enter the race.
Mr Higgins has previously said he would make his intentions clear by September, with a presidential election due to take place by November at the latest. However, The Irish Times reported earlier this year he will confirm his position by July.