herald

Monday 21 January 2019

Mitchell presidential bid to shake up Fine Gael

FINE Gael is set for presidential warfare as Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell prepares to take on Mairead McGuinness and Pat Cox.

The former minister has been "quietly thinking" about running for president and says he would like to see "an ordinary Dub" in the top job.

Just six months ago Mr Mitchell ruled himself out of a bid for Aras an Uachtarain but he revealed to the Herald today that this was done on the assumption that ex-Taoiseach John Bruton would seek the Fine Gael nomination.

He will now make "a determined statement" on his intentions by the end of the week.

"It sort of gathered moment um after John Bruton said that he wouldn't be going forward. "When I was asked about this six months ago I said 'no' because I presumed that he was allowing his name go forward," he explained.

Mr Mitchell told the Herald that he only informed family members that he was seriously considering the idea over the Bank Holiday.

"My intention is to make my mind up this week. I'm not going to procrastinate," he said.

"There has been no president from Dublin since Sean T O'Kelly. There has never been a Fine Gael president. But there are a lot of things to think about. It can be a lonely job.

"I have three years left in my mandate for Brussels and a chance of being re-elected if I want. But when I went into politics I set out to serve and I want to see where I can best serve.

"If an ordinary Dub can do the job then maybe I'll go for it."

However, in order to get his name on the ballot paper, Mr Mitchell will have to fight off stiff competition from fellow MEP Mairead McGuinness and possible former EU president Pat Cox.

Mr Cox is expected to join Fine Gael when its National Executive Committee meets on June 16.



Voice

Elsewhere, US publisher Niall O'Dowd, an influential figure in developing the Northern Irish peace process in the US, confirmed he was seriously considering running for the presidency.

He said he believed the race "would be immeasurably broadened by having an Irish diaspora voice if I decided to run".

"The time for lip service to that diaspora is over," he said.

"It is time to make that voice for 40 million Irish Americans heard loud and clear -- not to mention the tens of thousands that will soon be joining that journey west or Down Under," Mr O'Dowd said on his irishcentral.com website.

"I was totally taken aback during the recent visit to Ireland for the Obama visit to have a group of influential Irish figures approach me on this very issue.

"They see that the diaspora, when it comes to tourism and direct investment, are deeply important for the future of Ireland. They feel that the past leadership in Ireland has utterly failed the country and that the answer these days lies far more in Boston than Berlin. I wholeheartedly agree," he said.

Other declared runners in the presidential race include Senator David Norris, businessman Sean Gallagher and disability rights campaigner Mary Davis.

The Labour Party's candidate will be chosen jointly by the party's national executive and the Labour parliamentary party on June 19.

hnews@herald.ie

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