SEVEN PEOPLE WHO COULD REPLACE MICHAEL D
Current job: Independent senator.
Background: Craughwell comes from Salthill in Co Galway and has served in both the British and Irish armies. A former president of the Teachers’ Union of Ireland, he initially seemed to have little chance in a 2014 Seanad by-election but won after the Fine Gael candidate withdrew over a cronyism row.
What he says: “Michael D Higgins gave his assurance that he would be a one-term president… what’s happening here is old-style politics and cute hoorism.”
MARK DALY Age: 35
Current job: Fianna Fáil senator. Background: Before entering politics, Mark Daly finished third on the RTÉ reality television show Treasure Island in 2002. From a strongly republican Kerry family, he has compiled an Oireachtas report on how Brexit could lead to a united Ireland, introduced new protocols for the Irish flag and campaigned to have the national anthem ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ enshrined in legislation.
What he says: “I have been humbled by party members who approached me and asked me to consider putting my name forward.”
Current job: Outgoing CEO of children’s charity Barnardos. Background: As a Labour Party strategist, Finlay worked closely on Mary Robinson’s triumphant presidential campaign in 1990 and Adi Roche’s disastrous one in 1997. He unsuccessfully ran against Michael D Higgins for the Labour nomination last time around and will not directly challenge him again, but remains interested in the position.
What he says: “I would run a sleeves rolled up, communitybased presidency… That’s not the role Michael D has chosen to follow, but he has done a fantastic job in other areas.”
MAIREAD McGUINNESS Age: 59 Current job: Fine Gael MEP. Background: Although McGuinness was beaten by Gay Mitchell for the Fine Gael nomination seven years ago, few people doubt that she still harbours serious presidential ambitions. A former RTÉ presenter and Irish Independent farming journalist, she has been a high-profile member of the European Parliament since 2004 and became its vice president last year.
What she says: “The fact that I put my name forward the last time clearly shows that I had an interest, but I would really be guided by [Fine Gael] and what the party wants.”
LIADH NÍ RIADA
Current job: Sinn Féin MEP.
Background: A daughter of the ‘Mise Éire’ composer Seán Ó Riada, she worked as a television producer and director before entering the European Parliament. She was a member of the board that set up TG4, appointed by the then arts minister — one Michael D Higgins.
What she says: Yet to make any public comment about the presidency but is widely seen as Sinn Féin’s likeliest candidate. The Cork woman was denounced by Ulster unionists last year for suggesting in a Hot Press interview that IRA atrocities should not be described as “terrorism”.
PADRAIG Ó CÉIDIGH Age: 61 Current job: Independent senator. Background: Best known as the founder of regional airline Aer Arann, Ó Céidigh was appointed to the Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2016. The successful businessman and fluent Irish speaker from Connemara claims that he has the backing of many parliamentary colleagues for a presidential run.
What he says: “I am not interested in being a candidate just for the sake of it. If I go for something, I am the type of guy that would give it socks… 100 per cent.”
Current job: Artist and political activist.
Background: Raised in Donegal, Sharkey’s colourful CV includes being Ireland’s first black television presenter, appearing on Father Ted and working as a gigolo during the last recession. In recent times he has caused controversy by criticising the Irish government’s spending on foreign aid and questioning the level of immigration here.
What he says: “I couldn’t be more anti-establishment if I tried… I always felt there would come a time when I wanted to give something back for all I’ve got from Ireland.”