LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore has welcomed the decision of children’s rights campaigner Fergus Finlay to seek the party’s nomination for the presidency.
Mr Gilmore indicated Labour frontbench TD Michael D Higgins was also interested in running, meaning there would likely be a contest for the nomination.
“That’s something I’m very pleased about. I think the debate that will engender, both about the presidency itself and the future of the country, is a good thing,” Mr Gilmore said.
President McAleese’s term will expire in November 2011.
But Mr Gilmore believes there will be a general election before a presidential election, and said Labour’s focus would be on getting Fianna Fáil out of office.
The Government’s term is due to run until summer 2012. “Even though Fianna Fáil want to cling to office for as long as possible, I don’t think they will be able to resist the momentum... from the people of the country who want them out of office... want a new government and a fresh start for the country,” he said.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also said his party’s focus was on the general, rather than the presidential, election.
Mr Kenny agreed a general election was more likely to come first, and said the outcome of that election would inevitably shape the list of Fine Gael candidates for the presidential race.
Meanwhile, Barnardos chief executive Mr Finlay said yesterday he would take a pay cut if elected president.
Speaking on Newstalk Radio, Mr Finlay said he would take a smaller salary than President McAleese.
“I’ve always believed the labourer is worthy of his hire, and I think people shouldn’t be asked to work for salaries that aren’t fair and don’t reflect the responsibilities of the job.
“But nobody needs €292,000 a year to live on,” he said.
The €292,000 reflects the salary Mrs McAleese drew down in 2009, after taking a voluntary 10% pay cut for the year because of the budgetary climate.
However, she took a 20% pay cut for this year, which would indicate her salary is now closer to €260,000.
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