The position of President of Ireland should be contested by way of an election, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald says, adding that her party has plenty of suitable candidates.
However, one candidate who will not be in the running for the position is her predecessor Gerry Adams, she said, ruling him out categorically.
Speaking to reporters, Ms McDonald said as a matter of principle the position of President should be contested. Her comments are the most significant to date as the likelihood of Sinn Féin contesting the position means the incumbent Michael D Higgins would have to run again.
It is clear he wants another term but the question mark is over whether he has the appetite for a contest.
Ms McDonald made it clear that no one has the right to automatic re-election, no matter how popular they may be: “I don’t favour this idea that somebody just moves from one term of office into another automatically, I think it’s healthier to have the debate. Not least because the campaigns like that allow for broader political debates than we have in general election campaigns.
“So as a matter of principle, I think there ought to be an election.”
Ms McDonald said she has enormous regard for President Michael D Higgins, adding he has been “tremendous” in the role, but there should not be an automatic right to continue into a second term: “I am saying that with great respect to Michael D Higgins, I think he has been tremendous.”
Asked if Sinn Féin will force the issue and cause an election in the absence of anyone else, she said: “Well, I don’t know if you’d describe that as forcing the issue, we’ll discuss it and decide whether to contest and, if to contest, who might be interested or who might be available as a candidate. So I don’t have a definitive answer for you, but I do have a view myself.
“We’ve loads of candidates. Hundreds of them... There’d be no problem finding a candidate I am sure, should we decide,” she said.
Would it be Gerry Adams, she was asked. “No... no,” came the reply.
Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell has repeatedly claimed he has the required support of 20 Oireachtas members to allow him to contest the position.
Within Fine Gael, while the leadership would be quite happy to allow President Higgins a free run at a second term, MEPs Mairéad McGuinness and Sean Kelly have expressed an interest in the position.
Well-known RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan too is known to harbour ambitions to contest the position and has been linked to Fianna Fáil in that regard.
Artist Kevin Sharkey has confirmed he wants to run for president. If elected, he would become the first black Uachtarán na hÉireann. The Donegal man said the office of President should do more for homelessness than it currently does.
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