LEADING children’s rights campaigner Fergus Finlay has written to the Labour Party seeking its nomination to run for the presidency.
In the letter, Barnardos chief executive Mr Finlay acknowledges it is early to be declaring, given that President Mary McAleese’s term does not finish until November 2011.
But he expresses the hope that his early expression of interest will kick-start a “vigorous” debate in the party about the issue.
“In seeking our party’s nomination now, what I am asking for is not an immediate decision, but a dialogue within Labour about the values that should inform our entire approach – the message we should take to the people, the mandate we should seek, and how we should set about winning this crucial election with a professional and committed campaign,” he writes.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner last night, Mr Finlay said he sensed “an incredible sense of betrayal” as he travelled around the country in the course of his work with the children’s charity. The Church and banking scandals, together with the failures of political institutions, had “undermined respect for any form of authority”.
Asked what his platform would be, he said: “An attempt to reconnect. An attempt to try to offer some kind of alternative vision as to where we can go.”
Mr Finlay was senior adviser to former Labour leader Dick Spring in three governments and centrally involved in the election of President Mary Robinson in 1990. He topped the poll when RTÉ’s Liveline programme asked its listeners last month who they would most like to see in the Áras next year.
Fourth in that poll was Labour TD Michael D Higgins, who is also expected to seek the party’s nomination.
Mr Finlay notified party leader Eamon Gilmore of the letter and has sent it to all Labour TDs, senators and national executive members – the people who will select the nominee.
A spokesman for Mr Gilmore said that while the development came as no surprise, it would be next year before Labour arrived at any decision on the issue.
“At the moment we’re not really focused on the presidential election because there’s always the possibility – and some people would say probability – of a general election before then.”
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