POET, politician and scholar Michael D Higgins has begun his race to be the next president of Ireland.
He arrived at his parliamentary party’s pre-Dáil gathering in Roscommon claiming he had the credentials to become the head of state and the support to overcome his rival in the Labour Party, Fergus Finlay.
The Galway West TD said he already had a clear idea of the campaign he would run and would not change his message to suit the race.
“I feel I don’t have to invent a manifesto. I am not going to the public with my ear cocked just to hear what might be in a manifesto.
“It is important to listen but it is also important to analyse and it is important in that to have the courage to make a strategic response.
“And I have actually done a great deal of this work,” he said.
Mr Higgins, 69, said he respected Mr Finlay’s bid to win the Labour Party nomination and pointed to the Barnardos chief executive’s Irish Examiner column as evidence the race would be run properly.
“I think as Fergus said in the Examiner yesterday, what he was anxious to do was to make sure there would be a debate,” Mr Higgins said.
Mr Higgins was rebuffed by colleagues in previous campaigns and will need to convince the majority of the 36 members of the parliamentary party and national executive to run in 2011.
He said he already had a couple of teams preparing his internal campaign and he had a track record for them to sell.
“In my case remember I am a political scientist. I know the office of the presidency. I lectured in it as an academic, I was a public intellectual. I didn’t just stay in the academia, I went outside it.
“But I have also been an elected person at every level. I have been a county councillor, a city councillor, a mayor, a senator. I have been in the Dáil 25 years next week,” he said.
The former culture minister said he wanted his party colleagues to decide between him and Mr Finlay, sooner rather than later.
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