Mary Lou to mull list for Áras

Sinn Féin remains convinced of the need for a presidential election, with party leader Mary Lou McDonald saying she is mulling over a list of names before a party meeting later this month.

Many TDs and senators in Leinster House are still considering whether to back a candidate, with Independent minister Finian McGrath insisting that President Michael D Higgins should not secure a second seven-year term unchallenged.

Amid mounting demands for the President to clarify his intention about a second term, a spokesman for Mr Higgins last night reiterated he “will make his intentions known in due course”.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have all but ruled out backing an alternative candidate. Sinn Féin is the only major party considering whether to present a challenge if Mr Higgins decides to run.

Ms McDonald said a Sinn Féin ard comhairle meeting on July 14 will consider a list of possible candidates. “We are currently working our way through our options.”

She confirmed Sinn Féin is not ruling out supporting a candidate that the party does not nominate. 

This could include an independent candidate, such as senator Gerard Craughwell, if they were to secure a nomination. 

Gerard Craughwell

A potential candidate requires the support of 20 Oireachtas members or four local authorities.

Ms McDonald said she has “utmost respect” for Mr Higgins but believes the person who occupies “the highest office in the land ought to have an election sanction and mandate behind them”.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate that the incumbent simply rolls into another term of office seamlessly.

I think the election provides the platform for a very healthy debate about Ireland, about where we are now and where we might go over the next seven years, not least because we are facing Brexit, not least because we are facing demographic changes in the North, not least because the issue of women in society now looms large in a way that is new and I believe very healthy because issues around rights for other citizens, I’m thinking of the LGBT-plus community but also Travellers, other sections of society that need to be heard loud and clear.

She said a “presidential election, rather than a general election, allows that kind of broad-based conversation for Irish people to participate in”.

Meanwhile, Disabilities Minister Mr McGrath, at the Independent Alliance weekly meeting, asserted he wanted a presidential contest.

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