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Labhrás Ó Murchú wants to run as an independent candidate - and will ask the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party to let individual members support his bid. Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
Race for the Áras

Fianna Fáil calls meeting to discuss backing Senator's independent Áras campaign

…but it’s not David Norris. Rather, Labhrás Ó Murchú is asking FF to allow individual TDs and Senators help him get nominated.

A FOUR-TERM Fianna Fáil senator has emerged as a late entrant into the presidential race – with a meeting of the FF parliamentary party called for this evening to discuss his bid for the Áras.

Labhrás Ó Murchú says he has decided to make a formal run for the presidency as an independent candidate, and believes he still stands a very good chance of securing the 20 signatures he needs to become a formal candidate.

This lunchtime Ó Murchú said the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party was to meet this evening to discuss his late bid, and that he would ask the meeting to allow individual TDs and Senators to support him if they wished.

Ó Murchú said he had been approached “fairly seriously” last week about entering his name, and had initially dismissed the idea.

I was asked to consider it over the weekend, do a bit of sounding out… and I found there was a positive response coming back, and I decided to take it a step further.

The senator, 72, acknowledged that securing enough signatures to appear on the ballot paper would be difficult, but that his prospects for doing so looked “fairly good at the moment”.

Ó Murchú indicated that he had already secured the backing of some candidates, though he did not name them.

‘My name is now out there’

While Fianna Fáil has already decided not to run an internal candidate – saying it would examine the issue of supporting candidates after nominations closed – it did not make a decision on whether its Oireachtas members could help in nominations.

This evening’s meeting had been called, he said, to “deal with the issue of the presidency, and the idea that my name is now out there in the public. I hope to address that meeting myself, and put my own wishes and credentials before the meeting.”

Ó Murchú was not one of Micheál Martin’s ‘preferred’ candidates in this year’s Seanad election, when he retained his seat on the Cultural and Educational Panel, but does not believe that this status will work against him:

I succeeded in getting cross-party support on that occasion, which I think is also relevant now… I think it will be down very much to transfers, so you have to have some cross-party backing.

The senator, who is also the director-general of the traditional musicians’ group Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, said he also intended to lobby non-party TDs and Senators to secure their backing. He is not due to address them at their meeting today, however.

If Fianna Fáil was to allow its parliamentarians vote for their own candidates without a party whip, it would release 33 members who could then nominate other candidates – with only 20 of those needed to secure backing.

If FF was to do this, it would also boost the hopes of other potential candidates, including Dana and David Norris, who are known to be seeking the assistance of independent TDs and Senators to reach the 20-nominee threshold.

Ó Murchú has been outside of the party fold before – having resigned the party whip last July after voting against the passage of the Civil Partnership Bill in the Seanad. He rejoined the parliamentary party last November.

Read: FF blocks members from one-off Norris support >

More: Norris and Davis to address independent TDs and Senators >

In full: TheJournal.ie’s coverage of the race for the Áras >

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