herald

Saturday 26 May 2018

Fine Gael ministers line up to back Higgins for second Aras term

President Michael D Higgins addressed the UN in New York, and told the Herald: ‘I’ve never run from a contest in my life’. Photo: Getty
President Michael D Higgins addressed the UN in New York, and told the Herald: ‘I’ve never run from a contest in my life’. Photo: Getty

Fine Gael ministers are lining up to back President Michael D Higgins for a second term in office after he strongly indicated he is up for another election.

The largest political party in the Dail is known not to be keen to spend a long time and resources fighting a presidential race.

Support for the incumbent now stretches right across the senior Cabinet ranks, including Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

Five ministers yesterday said they would like to see Mr Higgins (77) stay in Aras an Uachtarain until 2025.

It comes after he gave the strongest hint yet that he intends to break his commitment to be a one-term President.

Speaking to the Herald at the United Nations in New York, Mr Higgins said: "I've never run from a contest in my life."

Following the comments, Mr Coveney, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, Health Minister Simon Harris and Education Minister Richard Bruton all backed the former Labour Party TD.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also concurred with the view that Mr Higgins had done a good job over the past seven years.

Unseemly

An election is due to take place in October. As the incumbent, Mr Higgins can nominate himself, while other candidates will require the backing of at least 20 Oireachtas members or four local authorities.

Independent senator Gerard Craughwell, who wants a nomination to contest the election, criticised Mr Higgins, saying it is "unseemly to see the President play games on this issue".

"In 2011 he gave the people of Ireland an absolute assurance he would be a one-term only President," Mr Craughwell told the Herald.

"Breaking his word will be regrettable and a blot on what has been an excellent term of office.

"But breaking his word in a time frame that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for others to mount a challenge in my view would be unforgivable, and smacks of a politics of long ago, a type of politics we all hoped passed into history with the economic collapse."

Mr Murphy said he met Mr Higgins at the Leinster match at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday.

"I think he's doing a fantastic job and it'd be good to see him stay in that role," he said.

Mr Bruton described himself as "a very strong admirer" of the President, while Mr Harris said he would like "to see him continue to serve".

Mr Coveney said the ex-arts minister has "done a very good job and I certainly wouldn't have any objection to him continuing on as President".

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