With the 26th of October the date of the next presidential election drawing closer and closer and the presidential nominations closing on the 26th of September, the race to be the 10th president of Ireland has well and truly begun. Currently there are five candidates confirmed to be on our ballot.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not putting forward their own candidates this time around and support the re-election of the current president Michael D. Higgins. Labour, The Social Democrats, The Green Party and People Before Profit initially said they would help a suitable candidate get on the ballot paper, but most have since elected to support President Michael D. Higgins as well.
Michael D. Higgins a former Labour politician, the current crown jewel Irish politics and the current President of Ireland is running for his second term in office despite initially claiming he would only seek one term in office. He is by far the most well-known presidential candidate. Enjoying not just the benefits on incumbency and high approval ratings but also not needing to seek nomination he is currently the man to beat. Last time as he flew slightly under the raider and emerged as a surprise winner his campaign was easier than most. This time around he can expect much further inquiries into his past actions however he has a much greater understanding of the role as president than the other candidates for obvious reasons.
Sean Gallagher another presidential hopeful received four council nominations to appear on our ballot paper. He was also the front runner in the 2011 presidential race until a spectacular collapse on the home straight of his campaign seeing Michael D. Higgins come from behind to become the surprise victor. Despite former connections with Fianna Fail, he is running as an independent candidate for the second time. Questions have been raised about his sudden reappearance in the political sphere after a seven-year absence since his 2011 loss. He is one of two former Dragons confirmed to be entering the race which should really heat things up.
Joan Freeman, the founder of Pieta is currently the only female in in the race for the presidency. She also received her nomination from local authorities. She resigned from her position in Pieta house 2014, to work with mental institutions in New York and then in 2016 she was appointed as an independent senator by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny and has continued her mental health advocacy in the upper house since. Despite not being overly-outspoken on the matter she has drawn support from the more conservative corners of Irish politics with TD Matty McGrath saying, “a good Catholic president would be refreshing”.
Gavin Duffy one of the less known candidates in the political sphere, is the other former Dragon. He was one of the earlier nominees to get his political campaign underway, but this only marks the start of the race for him as he is one of the lesser known candidates. Now he must focus in earnest on the second phase of the campaign asking the general public to give him their vote in the office for president.
The most recent addition to the race has been Sinn Fein candidate Liadh Ní Riada. She is currently Sinn Fein MEP for the South constituency and has held this position since 2014. Her speech at her candidacy announcement event had a significant emphasis on Brexit and her desire to lead the country to unification. Her previous professional background was in television production, but she made the move into politics after the death of her husband just 10 months after their marriage. With the addition of Ní Riada, there are now five candidates contesting the presidential election.
The race is expected to really heat up come September 26th when all candidates have formally been declared or eliminated, and when we can expect to see posters up and the debate schedules given. Currently, it is Michael D’s election with strong public support and a successful seven-year term behind him.
By Sean Cullen – Politics CoEditor