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President Mary the III?

diagnosis serif;”>Hayley Maher talks to presidential candidate Mary Davis

People might say that the younger generation is disinterested in politics, but the packed lecture hall for the recent presidential debate in UCD said otherwise. A fact not lost on Mary Davis, who felt the packed attendance in the lecture hall was a sign that younger people are indeed interested in the president. “It’s up to the president to make the role relevant to younger generations. By making a connection between the role [of president] and young people by appointing them to the Council of State there could be more interaction between the president and young people during the seven years of the presidency.”

Despite the age gap between the president and younger people, ensured by a requirement in the constitution that all candidates be over the age of 35, Davis says that she can understand the young people of Ireland as she has four children under the age of 30 and “I recognise the obstacles that they face, the challenges they have, what they have to overcome and I can appreciate how young people can feel disenfranchised and can feel that the political system has let them down.”

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Davis says that one of the qualities she would bring to the role of the presidency is a desire to be inclusive. “I would like to be a president who would be inclusive, that is one of the strong values I bring to the role of the presidency, and that includes above all people, young people, old people, people who are marginalised, people with a disability and people who are unemployed.”

Davis adds that serving on the Council of State has made her very familiar with the role of the president. She also emphasises the time she has spent working internationally with the Special Olympics and how it is important to have a president who can “repair the reputation of Ireland abroad”.

After almost 30 years of working, as her website puts it, as a “a social entrepreneur, change leader and passionate advocate”, Davis says that she could continue to influence change as the president. “The president has to be guided and work very closely with the government…but when the president travels around the country and speaks to community groups and other organisations, I think there is a lot that the president can do to influence change, to challenge public perception and to be a voice for people, particularly who are marginalised.”

Questions about the presidential oath have arisen during the campaign and Davis says that it is something which should be debated. “I come from a very inclusive background and I think that we should be as inclusive as possible, therefore it does warrant discussion.”

Davis received some criticism during the nomination process for accepting 12 council nominations, when she only needed to secure four in order to run. Unlike fellow candidate Seán Gallagher, Davis did not ask councils to withdraw further nominations to leave them free to nominate other candidates. Davis said that ““It’s really not up to the candidate to dictate or to tell or to influence councillors in how the vote…I was really honoured to get so many nominations, it’s an endorsement and an indication of support in that county for me.”

Asked why the students of UCD should vote for her, she said: “I stand for bringing pride ant home and respect abroad, I believe that every single person in society has something to offer. “ And of course, her answer to the all important question of how she would feel about being the third female president named Mary – why she would love to complete the trilogy.

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