FF's De Roiste backing 'phenomenal woman' Freeman for president
A Fianna Fail councillor has become the first in the party to publicly break ranks and commit his support to an Independent candidate seeking a presidential nomination.
Ballyfermot councillor Daithi De Roiste said he will support senator Joan Freeman if she comes before Dublin City Council (DCC) seeking a nomination.
The senator is due to canvass a number of local authorities in the hope of securing the support of four, which she needs to lodge nomination papers.
She has reached out to South Dublin County Council and Fingal County Council and is expected to present to DCC if an opportunity arises.
A decision by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin not to impose a whip on his councillors has opened up the local authority route for potential challengers.
However, despite not enforcing sanctions for anyone going against the party's position, Mr Martin has advised councillors not to facilitate the nomination of a challenger to President Michael D Higgins.
However, Mr De Roiste said he would vote for Ms Freeman irrespective of the party's position.
"I think Joan is a phenomenal woman and she would make an excellent president," he told the Herald.
"You only have to look at the work she has done with Pieta House nationally and here in Ballyfermot.
"Michael D Higgins has been a good president, but at the end of the day I think Joan would be better."
Mr De Roiste said having a mental health advocate in the Aras would help boost a national conversation.
DCC looks set to host a meeting to facilitate potential candidates who can make their pitch before the council.
Fianna Fail councillor Paul McAuliffe and his party colleagues on the city authority have requested a meeting.
"I don't want it to be sprung on us at the last minute, that's why I'm anxious that we would deal with this now," Mr Mc- Auliffe said.
Ms Freeman, who established Pieta House and was also instrumental in the establishment of the international Darkness Into Light event, has pledged to foster a national conversation around well-being and to promote volunteerism.
A number of other people have suggested they would like to contest the election, including businessman and Dragon's Den entrepreneur Gavin Duffy and former GAA president Liam O'Neill.
It is understood Mr Duffy has been interacting with a number of local authorities behind the scenes
A source close to his campaign estimated that there are enough local authorities with the potential to nominate a number of possible candidates for the October vote.