Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly has political and sporting support for presidential tilt

Ireland South Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly is considering running for president and says he has the support of politicians and sporting communities.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, the former GAA president said he would be honoured if chosen to run.

“A lot of people have asked me about it. I will think about it. A couple of people in the parliamentary party have said ‘are you considering it, you should throw your hat in the ring if it comes up’.”

The two-time MEP says he, and likely the Fine Gael party, will hold off making a decision until President Michael D Higgins announces whether he will seek a second term.

“I see nothing at all wrong with the present incumbent. If he wants to consider running again, he should be allowed to do so.

“A lot of people have asked me about it. I will think about it. Fine Gael members at meetings have said it to me, people involved in sport have too.

“Even students at a school in Tipperary asked me.”

The Fine Gael leadership had not discussed it with him yet, said the MEP.

Mr Kelly won 83,000 first preference votes in the last European elections. He was also elected in 2009. The former teacher played a key role as GAA president in opening up Croke Park to soccer and rugby.

The married father-of-four said his focus for now was on getting re-elected to the European Parliament.

Mr Kelly featured on a Fine Gael shortlist for the 2012 presidential election, but ultimately MEP Gay Mitchell went forward.

Independent senator Gerard Craughwell is the only other person to express an interest in running this time for president when Michael D Higgins’s term finishes in October.

Asked by the Irish Examiner if his heart was in it, Mr Kelly responded:

“I’ve never seen myself as good enough potentially as president, but it would be a great honour even to be considered.

“I would have to take it very seriously if people [in the party] asked me to run.

“If Áras an Uachtaráin was in Kerry, it would be more of an attraction and maybe easier.

“I think I could bring a lot to it, especially with my experience as president of the GAA, and having worked with young people and sport.

“I also now have a lot of connections and networks through the European Parliament. I’m good at connecting with people. And I’ve a ferocious amount of energy.”

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