Independent senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh to mull bid for president after Eighth vote

Pádraig Ó Céidigh

Independent senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh will decide whether to run for the presidency after the Eighth Amendment referendum. He has been offered financial aid for a campaign that could cost half a million euro.

The move comes as appetite grows for a contest when President Michael D Higgins’ first term comes to an end in October.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was the latest this week to call for a contest, whether or not Mr Higgins seeks a second term.

There should be no automatic right to continue for a second term, she said.

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have said they will hold off deciding on whether to support or field a candidate until Mr Higgins makes a decision. The president says he will decide in the summer.

Mr Ó Céidigh said he had received support from Oireachtas colleagues to run, but the Aer Arann founder said he has yet to make up is mind.

“My thoughts are there should be an election,” he said. “I’m considering but haven’t made up my mind yet. It is very much a family call.”

The businessman said the majority of candidates in the 2011 presidential contest only joined the race in June, just a few months before the vote. He expects a similar pattern this time.

“It’s important to let the Eighth Amendment [referendum] work its way through as well as respectfully to give Michael D Higgins time,” he said.

Mr Ó Céidigh said he had not yet chosen — should be decide to run — whether to seek the required support of 20 Oireachtas members or four local authorities.

“Some TDs and senators have said they would back me,” he said. “Non-political people have also said they would support me financially.”

However, the Connemara native said running as an independent would be a challenge without a major party behind a campaign.

“I’m of the view that you would need between €350,000 and €500,000 for a campaign, which is a challenge for an independent candidate,” he said.

Fine Gael MEPs Sean Kelly and Mairead McGuinness have made expressions of interest in running for president, as has artist Kevin Sharkey and Independent senator Gerard Craughwell. Mr Ó Céidigh said it would not worry him if the latter ran, as “a competition never bothers” him.

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