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Gay Mitchell with party leader Enda Kenny during Fine Gael think-ins this week. Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland
race to the aras

Fine Gael councillors will not back independent presidential candidates

Contrary to this morning’s reports, Fine Gael has not changed its position regarding the upcoming presidential election and will not allow its councillors to support any independent candidates.

FINE GAEL HAS not changed its position on allowing its councillors to back independent candidates in the upcoming presidential election.

The Irish Times reported this morning that the party had withdrawn its advice to local elected representatives to block independent candidates.

However, in a statement this afternoon, Fine Gael denied that any changes had been made to its policy. The party said:

Despite coverage and comments in today’s Irish Times there is no change in the Fine Gael position regarding the forthcoming presidential election.

The party said its instruction to city and county councillors is clear.

All local elected representatives are expected to support the party’s candidate and not to facilitate any other candidate in their quest for a presidential nomination.

Its approach had previously been criticised for being undemocratic and a spokesman for the party’s candidate Gay Mitchell told the Irish Times that the block was “foolish”.

With the closing date for nominations just three weeks away, those who still wish to contest the election are scrambling for support from local councils or TDs.

However, with Fine Gael’s confirmation of its “block” on independents, it could be difficult. The party controls about 20 of the 34 county and city councils that can make nominations, according to the Irish Times.

However, the Irish Independent reports that former MEP and Eurovision winner Dana Rosemary Scanlon and Trócaire chief Justin Kilcullen are continuing their late bids to enter the race.

Dana has been ringing Fianna Fáil and independent deputies in attempts to drum up support, says Fiach Kelly in the Irish Independent.

Kilcullen has also written to independent TDs, stating that as an independent president he could be a transforming force in Ireland.

A new opinion poll yesterday showed that Labour’s Michael D Higgins holds a 12-point lead in the race.

The RedC poll, commissioned by Paddy Power, gives Higgins a 36 per cent share of the first preference votes, with Mitchell well behind on 24 per cent.

Independent candidates Sean Gallagher and Mary Davies are on 21 per cent and 19 per cent  respectively.

Read: Higgins holds commanding lead in latest Áras poll>

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