Five candidates now look set to contest the position of President, following a series of votes at local authorities across the country.
In addition to the incumbent Michael D Higgins, businessman and Dragons’ Den star Seán Gallagher and Senator Joan Freeman were swept on to ballot paper yesterday, having both received the required backing of four local authorities.
Mr Gallagher, the runner-up in 2011, secured the backing of Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Wexford county councils while Ms Freeman won the support of Galway City, Galway County and Fingal County councils. She secured the support of Cork City Council last week.
Sinn Fein is expected to decide its candidate this weekend with MEP Liadh Ní Riada set to be selected.
The other likely candidate is Gavin Duffy, also of Dragons’ Den, currently has the backing of three councils and just needs one more.
Speaking at Fingal council, an emotional Ms Freeman said while President Higgins brought dignity to the job, a new focus is needed for the role.
What I am trying to do is say that maybe we need to change our focus. The President needs to reflect the people at that time and we are in a very different place and time now,” she said.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s name has gone forward for consideration as Sinn Féin’s candidate. Sinn Féin’s Midlands North West cúige group put forward his name. He is not due to contest the next general election.
Meanwhile, at Fingal County Council, aspirant candidate Gemma O’Doherty faced stinging criticism from Councillor Jimmy Guerin, brother of murdered journalist Veronica.
Ms O’Doherty was due to appear before the council to seek its backing but withdrew less than an hour before the meeting began.
Mr Guerin described Ms O’Doherty’s claims the State was involved in his sister’s murder as deeply “hurtful, offensive and disgusting”.
Ms O’Doherty later told the Irish Examiner that no one including Mr Guerin was going to silence her.
Mr Guerin is not going to silence me. I made a stated belief at a public meeting a number of weeks ago. This has nothing to do with my presidential campaign.
“I cannot see how it could be offensive. I am focusing on my campaign which is about corruption, transparency and accountability and nobody will silence me including Mr Guerin.”