Fianna Fáil will force an Áras battle with Higgins
Ó Céidigh, O’Callaghan and Ó Cuív on shortlist
FIANNA Fáil is to force a battle for the presidency. It is drawing up a shortlist of candidates to take on Michael D Higgins, including RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh and TD Éamon Ó Cuív.
FIANNA Fáil is putting together a shortlist of presidential candidates – which includes former Aer Arann Chief Executive, Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh and former Cabinet minister Éamon Ó Cuív – to contest a presidential election next year, the Irish Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The party is also aware that RTÉ personality Miriam O’Callaghan, sister of the party’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan, is interested in running for the position.
If Fianna Fáil does put forward a candiate, it will force all the other major political groups to field candidates. And it will force President Michael D Higgins, who will be 77 next year, into an arduous election campaign if he wants to remain.
Sources in Fianna Fáil said a recent interview given by President Higgins to Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One changed the mood in the party. Mr Higgins said he would not decide whether to run for presidency until next September, a stance senior sources in Fianna Fáil described as ‘seeming entitled’. In his 2011 election campaign, Mr Higgins said he would only perform one term as President. But if he does run again, he will be a formidable opponent. A poll published yesterday showed almost two-thirds of voters want to see President Higgins serve a second term. The MoS asked Mr Ó Céidigh about the speculation of his presidential run for Fianna Fail – which has not approached him officially. He said: ‘The first thing I’d say it’s a huge honour and a privilege that people might consider me for such a position, and it really is. ‘It is something that I haven’t reflected deeply on and it is something that I would need to talk to my family and some people who are close to me and in relation to it. But it would be a huge privilege but nobody has asked me yet and nobody has spoken to me and I haven’t put together any cohesive, serious thought about it.’
Fianna Fáil had toyed with supporting an agreement to leave President Higgins in the job by way of a consensus among political parties that has precedent. But a number of strategists told the MoS that this plan has been abandoned.
Fine Gael ministers had said publicly they supported the retention of President Higgins. However, Cabinet ministers said this weekend that if Fianna Fáil contest, they will too. A Cabinet minister said the only name that has been seriously discussed as a candidate at this stage is Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. However, there is a feeling that former Taoiseach Enda Kenny may also be interested. Friends of Mr Ó Céidigh believe he would be very open to running for Fianna Fáil. One said: ‘It is something that he’d consider.’ The MoS has also learn-ed Fianna Fail has approached Mr Ó Céidigh about running for the party for Galway West in a general election. However, a friend said: ‘But Mr Ó Céidigh doesn’t really have much of an interest in that, he’d rather stay in the Seanad.’
One friend also said Mr Ó Céidigh had considered running in 2011, ‘but his company, Aer Arann, was in a challenging position at the time and they’d 400 staff. He wanted to stick with his team.’
‘It’s a huge honour and a privilege’
POTENTIal caNdIdaTE: Miriam O’Callaghan
INTENTION: President Higgins won’t decide until September