Leading children’s rights campaigner Fergus Finlay today put himself forward to be considered in the presidential election.
Mr Finlay, chief executive of Barnardo’s, is seeking the Labour Party nomination to run as a candidate to succeed Mary McAleese.
In a letter to Labour TDs, senators and members of the party’s National Executive, he said the election will be of real importance to the people of Ireland.
“In light of everything that has happened in the last few years in Ireland, it has never been more important that the people be given a real choice about what kind of spirit should inform our politics in the years ahead,” Mr Finlay wrote.
“In the course of my own daily work I meet literally hundreds of people every week – people who have been damaged by the divisions in Irish society, as well as people who are working, day in and day out, to put right some of the wrongs of our recent past, and many more who care about their neighbourhoods, their families, and the building of a better society.
“There is a palpable sense of hurt and betrayal throughout our community, caused exclusively by the self-inflicted wounds that have done enormous damage to virtually every form of institution in Ireland.”
The presidential election is due to take place in October 2011.
Others expected to put themselves forward for the post include former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, human rights campaigners Senator David Norris and Labour TD Michael D Higgins, MEP Brian Crowley and Mary Davis of Special Olympics Ireland.
Mr Finlay said it would be a healthy and democratic contest.
“I would regard David Norris as a friend of mine, he is somebody that I admire,” he continued.
“If you could actually get a contest going that’s based on real respect of people and ideas in the right direction, how healthy would that be?”
Mr Finlay said people feel let down by the leadership of the country in recent times, not just in politics but in the banks, business and church.
“Policy has been abused, trust has been betrayed and people just feel abandoned and let down by that,” he said.
“Everywhere I go people talk about the need for a new kind of leadership based on respect and based on a commitment to rebuilding trust.
“I don’t know if I can do that but I’ve decided I must give it a go.”
He said a democratically elected president must be capable of articulating a new sense of direction.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore welcomed Mr Finlay’s interest in running as the party’s presidential candidate.
“It would appear that there will be a contest for the Labour Party nomination for the presidency – that’s something that I’m very pleased about,” said Mr Gilmore.
“I think that the debate that will engender about the presidency and the future of the country would be a good thing.
“But I think we need to remember that this election is not until next year.”