Fianna Fáil will force an Áras bat­tle with Hig­gins

Ó Céidigh, O’Cal­laghan and Ó Cuív on short­list

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By John Lee PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR john.lee@mailon­sun­

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

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