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Gerard Craughwell says he'll do his utmost to challenge Michael D for the presidency

Michael D Higgins confirmed this morning that he would seek a second term in the Áras.

File Photo PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL SENATOR Gerard Craughwell has defended sending a note to councillors in which he gave them advice on how to “maximise allowable expenses”. The email was sent to all city and county councillors by the Independent Senator Source: Mark Stedman via RollingNews.ie

INDEPENDENT SENATOR GERARD Craughwell has said that he will do his utmost to contest the presidential election.

This was after Michael D Higgins confirmed this morning that he would seek a second term as Uachtarán na hÉireann.

Reacting to the announcement by the president this morning, he told TheJournal.ie that he is “very angry that it has been left so late”.

“It hasn’t put me off. I am sickened this morning. I can’t begin to pretend that I am not angry. I am extremely that the president has decided to do exactly what he criticised Mary MacAleese for doing in 2004 – leaving it to the twelfth hour. There is a sense of entitlement here.”

“I don’t believe anyone is unbeatable, including the incumbent,” he added, though he admitted it would be a difficult contest to win.

“It is interesting he is at the other side of the county and not here to answer questions – it is a tactical move,” said Craughwell, adding:

If I don’t get a nomination that is fine, I just want an election.

Most likely, Craughwell will have to seek councillor nominations if he is to make up the numbers to run for president.

He said today that many people who promised to back him in the race indicated that it would be dependent on what Michael D Higgins decided to do.

He added that he is very concerned that it is the Leinster House “elites” that are ultimately deciding who will be president.

Craughwell said Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have overstepped the mark by instructing their councillors and members not to engage in the nomination process.

“That is just undemocratic,” he said, adding that it is the “political elite” stating “we will pick who your president is – sure isn’t he [Michael D Higgins] a very a nice man”.

To get on the ballot, someone must be nominated by at least 20 members of the Oireachtas or by at least four local councils.

Craughwell previously defended sending a note to councillors in which he gave them advice on how to “maximise allowable expenses”.

When it was suggested on the RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme that he wouldn’t have much of a chance of winning due to Higgins’ popularity (Fianna Fáil have agreed to back him), Craughwell said:

I wouldn’t at all agree. When I ran for the Senate it was [deemed as] impossible… but the point is elections sometimes turn on the spin of a coin.

“He did give the country an assurance that he would serve one term only and he has to explain that change,” he added.

Craughwell told reporters this morning that today is day one of the presidential election and raised concerns about the president using taxpayers money to “swan around the country”.

He said now is the time for O’Higgins to “step back from his use of State assets”.

“You cannot have the taxpayer funding a campaign,” he added.

A number of names have been mentioned as possible candidates for the presidential election – Fine Gael and Sinn Féin have yet to confirm who they will support.

Fine Gael are due to decide what course of action it will take at their parliamentary party meeting tomorrow night. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar previously said that he would wait to see what Higgins would do before declaring his party’s intention.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald has indicated that she would like to see a contest for the presidential election, stating that she has people from inside and outside her party that she would consider as good candidates. However, today she added that she would prefer a candidate from within Sinn Féin.

Senator Frances Black, who had been rumoured as possibly winning a Sinn Féin nomination, ruled herself out of the race last week. A decision on whether the party will contest the presidential election, which is due to be held in October, will be made at the party’s Ard Comhairle on Saturday.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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