Potential candidate says presidency ‘is just a meet and greet job’

Potential presidential election candidate Gerard Craughwell has risked undermining his campaign by claiming the highest office in the country is a “meet and greet job” that has no impact on the general public.

Mr Craughwell made the comments as ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern threw his support behind rumoured candidate Joan Freeman, and as speculation grew that businessmen Seán Gallagher and Gavin Duffy and political analyst Noel Whelan could enter the race.

Asked on Dublin City FM yesterday about why he is seeking to replace current President Michael D Higgins, Independent senator Mr Craughwell said he believes a presidential race is vital to ensure democratic transparency in the role.

However, he risked damaging his own campaign before it has even officially begun, saying that if people were “honest”, they would accept the presidency is little more than a “meet and greet job” that does not impact on ordinary citizens’ lives.

“Let’s be honest about it, presidential elections have nothing whatsoever to do with policy,” said Mr Craughwell. “You cannot affect anything in this country.

“It is a meet and greet job and the one time that you could do something, presidents in this country have been reluctant to do it. And that is to have legislation sent to the Supreme Court to have its constitutionality checked or verified.”

Mr Craughwell’s comments came as Mr Ahern backed Ms Freeman to be a strong rival to President Higgins, saying she would be the ideal person to enter the increasingly crowded race for the Áras.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Marian Finucane Show, Mr Ahern said that while Ms Freeman has yet to officially enter the race, her experience in setting up suicide prevention and awareness charity Pieta House would give her the edge over some of her rivals.

Meanwhile, speculation is continuing to grow that defeated 2011 presidential candidate Mr Gallagher could enter the race for the Áras once more.

Mr Gallagher last week wrote to local councils encouraging them to nominate a candidate, something that is possible if four councils back an individual to run. He also wrote in a Sunday newspaper yesterday that the focus is now turning to local politicians.

In separate interviews in two other Sunday newspapers, fellow Dragons’ Den panelist Gavin Duffy and political analyst Noel Whelan both indicated they may have an interest in running for the role.

However, the fact all three individuals cited the same reasons for why more candidates should run with the backing of local council support, and the reality they are known to be close associates of each other, has led to speculation over whether only one will eventually run.

Separately, while Sinn Féin’s ard chomhairle confirmed on Saturday the party will run a candidate, MEP Lynn Boylan has officially ruled herself out of contention.

An internal team led by Waterford TD David Cullinane will outline how a Sinn Féin candidate will be chosen later this month.

Update: 16/07/2018

This story has been edited to correct an error which originally stated that a nomination is possible if 20 councils support an individual.

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