Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív said he declined to enter the presidential election race because of senior party officials’ threats that he would be kicked out of the party if he did so.
Mr O Cuiv last night confirmed the reason for his decision to formally rule himself out of the contest in a two-page letter to supporters, saying: “You can understand I would not do anything that would force me to leave.”
Last month, it emerged that Mr Ó Cuív had ignored the view of party leader Micheál Martin and, on July 23, met with several councillors who wanted him to be Fianna Fáil’s candidate.
In his first public comments on the matter yesterday, Mr Ó Cuív broke his silence on Galway Bay FM to say he was not entering the race because he had already decided not to do so if President Michael D Higgins sought a second term.
However, while referencing this reason in a letter to supporters last night, Mr Ó Cuív also revealed that he had been warned that he would be kicked out of the party if he sought a nomination — saying this way the main reason for his U-turn.
“The clear indication by Fianna Fáil spokespersons was that, even if Fianna Fáil councillors supported a county council nomination, any Fianna Fáil person so nominated would be forced out of the party,” he wrote in the letter, seen by the Irish Examiner.
“You can understand I would not do anything that would force me to leave the party at this time, or cause division.”
One supporter of Mr Ó Cuív last night said he “passionately” believes the TD should have been allowed to run, and it “beggars belief” that he was blocked from entering the contest.
However, Mr Ó Cuív’s decision to formally end his interest in the presidency means it is now almost certain the party will adhere to Mr Martin’s decision not to run a candidate — an issue likely to be raised at the party’s pre-Dáil think-in next week.
Meanwhile, 10 potential presidential candidates sought the support of Galway county council yesterday in the latest stage of the race to win nominations to enter the contest.
The pitches came as one of the candidates, journalist Gemma O’Doherty, hit out at the fact that potential runners have to attend a number of councils around the country on the same day.
President Michael D Higgins’ next public appearance will be at the Kennedy Summer School in Wexford tomorrow.