Labour would back Michael D Higgins in Áras run

The Labour Party has said it would back and campaign for Michael D Higgins if he was to seek a second term as President.

Labour candidate Micheal D Higgins is hugged by his wife Sabina on the night he was elected President in 2011.

“We would and we could, if he decided to go again,” said Labour’s chief of staff, Neil Ward.

The Irish Examiner also understands that senior members of the Labour Party are working on the basis that the President will go forward for election, though this has not been confirmed.

While Mr Higgins, 76, has declined to say recently in public if he would seek another seven-year term, there is increasing speculation as to whether he would be challenged if he ran.

Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath recently said Independent TDs and senators should facilitate an Independent candidate for the election race, scheduled to happen next year.

Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell has also said he would go forward as a candidate to ensure there was a contest: “Democracy demands that all presidents should be elected not agreed between political parties.”

While Mr Higgins resigned as a member of Labour when he was elected in November 2011, he is still very much regarded as an important figure for the party.

Labour was also at an electoral high during his campaign, having won 37 seats. It has since seen its Dáil presence whittled down to just seven seats amid a major slide in support.

Mr Ward said Labour’s support for Mr Higgins, if he ran for a second term, would include a campaign and postering. He said a campaign for Mr Higgins would also likely see cross-party support or co-ordination. This was the case with Mary Robinson, who was nominated by Labour originally for the presidency but supported by the Green Party, the Workers Party and Independent senators, he explained.

Mr Ward also pointed out that parties had co-operated together for the 2015 marriage equality campaign.

“We’d [the parties] have to sit down together and work out a structure. If he [Mr Higgins] decided to go again, we would support him.”

Senior Labour Party figures have said that it is their strong understanding that President Higgins is keen to seek another term in office, despite his insistence in 2011 that he would only serve one term.

Labour does not expect Mr Higgins to make any final decision or public announcement on a final decision until early next year.

Senior Fine Gael figures have already indicated the party is unlikely to oppose Mr Higgins if the former Galway TD seeks a second term.

Most recently, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said the President should attract cross-party support if he ran again. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also offered Mr Higgins support.

Asked recently if he would run again when his term ends end next October, Mr Higgins replied: “What I can say is that the only change in the circumstances is that nothing is ruled out.”



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