Sinn Féin expected to nominate female candidate in presidential election

SF is the only party to challenge Michael D Higgins for office of president

Sinn Féin has decided that it will run a presidential candidate against Michael D Higgins meaning a vote will now definitely take place in the autumn.

a
 

Sinn Féin is expected to choose a female, internal candidate to be its contender for the presidential election.

The party has confirmed in recent days it will field a candidate to challenge Michael D Higgins for the office of president, becoming the only political party to do so.

An internal group, chaired by David Cullinane TD, has been asked to formalise a process for choosing its candidate and report back to the party’s ard comhairle within 10 days.

Local cumann will be asked to make a nomination and if more than one person is chosen, the ard comhairle will decide on the final name.

However, several Sinn Féin figures confirmed the leadership favours an internal candidate and it is “extremely likely” that person will be a woman.

Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan has confirmed she will not be the party’s candidate, but MEP Liadh Ní Riada has expressed an interest in the role. Michelle Gildernew MP is also one of the names under consideration.

Outsider

One senior figure said special dispensation would have to be given to an outsider and claimed “that is not what the party wants”.

Meanwhile, it emerged this weekend Fianna Fáil councillors will be able to support Independent candidates seeking a nomination to run for the presidency despite the party taking a decision to support Mr Higgins.

The party leadership had said its support for Mr Higgins would apply from “the bottom to the top” but that position has changed in recent days.

Leader Micheál Martin told a meeting of the national executive last week Fianna Fáil would not block any candidates from entering the field and it was a matter for each local authority member to decide how to proceed.

Mary Lou McDonald speaking to reporters after the part meeting on Saturday. Photograph: Jack Power
Several Sinn Féin figures have confirmed the party leadership favours an internal candidate and it is “extremely likely” that person will be a woman. Photograph: Jack Power

Independent candidates need 20 Oireachtas members or four local authorities to sign nomination papers.

A number of names have been associated with the position in recent days including businessman Gavin Duffy and Irish Times columnist barrister Noel Whelan.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Whelan said he had seriously considered entering the field earlier this year and had held a series of meetings in January and February.

These meetings were on the basis Mr Higgins would not seek re-election, Mr Whelan said.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy stressed he would only be willing to back a left-wing, principled candidate but said that did not stretch to Mr Higgins

Despite believing the incumbent is unassailable, Mr Whelan confirmed he is contemplating a bid for the office.

“Of course, I don’t want to get involved in a contest where I do not have any chance of winning it but at the same time, it is important to step up and say this office is important enough to have a conversation about it.

Reluctant

“It is important it isn’t a binary one between one of the political parties and the incumbent who may be constrained in what he can do in an election,” Mr Whelan added.

It is understood Sean Gallagher, who wrote to councillors last week urging them to nominate candidates, is reluctant to enter the contest but is keen local authorities exercise their rights.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour are all supporting Mr Higgins for a second term.

Meanwhile, People Before Profit and Solidarity have confirmed they are willing to offer support to a candidate in an election.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was up to the candidates to set out their stall and his party will make a judgment on that basis.

Solidarity TD Paul Murphy stressed he would only be willing to back a left-wing, principled candidate but said that did not stretch to Mr Higgins.

a