Áras hopefuls call for presidency to be limited to one term

Two leading candidates have called for the presidency to be limited to one term only and for all presidential costs to be made public in a double attack on Michael D Higgins.

Independent senator Joan Freeman and businessman Gavin Duffy both called for the new restrictions on the high-profile role as they made their latest pitch for the presidency.

Gavin Duffy
Gavin Duffy

Speaking during a special Carlow county council meeting during which Mr Duffy also said he wants to set up a presidential youth corp which critics say would be akin to national service, both likely candidates said changes are needed.

Citing the 14 year time in power President Higgins will have if he is re-elected and ongoing concerns over the lack of financial transparency in the Aras, Ms Freeman and Mr Duffy said they will make reforms should they gain power.

"I absolutely agree with that [a single term limit], but I think it should be five years not seven," Ms Freeman told reporters when asked.

In a speech to councillors, Mr Duffy made a similar reference to President Higgins' decision to run for a second term, saying he also wants to limit the term to seven years.

However, Mr Duffy appeared to contradict himself moments later, saying he would make sure he tells people in the "sixth" year of his presidency if he wants to seek re-election.

Ms Freeman and Mr Duffy separately said they want information on presidential costs made public in response to Dáil public accounts committee chair Sean Fleming calling for an examination of how much money has been spent during President Higgins' term.

Joan Freeman
Joan Freeman

Ms Freeman said "everybody should be able to explain" how much money is being spent, while Mr Duffy said he will make a "voluntary" commitment to release all cost records if elected.

Meanwhile, Mr Duffy has separately called for an Irish presidency youth corp to be set up to replace the previous Irish religious "missionary" zeal with a volunteer service "where people wear an Irish smile".

Ms Freeman also said she wants to set up a mental health summit within six months of entering office due to her Pieta House suicide awareness work, but insisted "I am not a one-trick pony".

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