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Race for the Áras: Get to know your presidential hopefuls

A rundown of who has thrown their hat in the ring so far.

Now that the date of the Presidential election has been confirmed for 26 October, here’s another look at the hopefuls so far:

IT WILL PROBABLY be next month before we know who will officially be on the presidential ballot for the October election.

But a number of candidates have already started their bid to take on favourite Michael D Higgins.

In order to get on the ballot, candidates need the support of four councils or 20 members of the Oireachtas.

Sinn Féin opened nominations for a presidential candidate yesterday and the party’s 35 Oireachtas members guarantee a place for its candidate.

Nominations will be submitted by the five Cúige regions or regional bodies to the Sinn Féin leadership.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have said they will not run a candidate and will support Michael D Higgins for reelection.

Higgins announced his bid for a second term on 10 July and since then there has been a lot of speculation as to who could successfully challenge the popular incumbent.

So who has thrown their hat in the ring so far?
6827 Gemma O_Doherty_90546285Gemma O’Doherty arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal earlier this year.Source: Leah Farrell via Rollingnews
Gemma O’Doherty 

Fresh off her announcement that she is to seek a nomination for the presidency, the journalist is the newest presidential hopeful in the race.

She was formerly a chief features writer with The Irish Independent and has contributed to The Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Village Magazine. In 2013, she was made compulsorily redundant by The Irish Independent.

While working at the paper, O’Doherty wrote an article about the then-garda commissioner Martin Callinan having penalty points wiped from his licence.

She had a Pulse file to that effect in her possession, but to make sure that he was the same person, she went to visit his home. O’Doherty was dismissed from her job at Independent News and Media shortly afterwards, and later settled a suit for wrongful dismissal.

Commissioner Martin Callinan admitted that a fixed penalty notice was written off after he had been caught breaking the speed limit by a traffic camera in 2007.

However, he said he was on duty when the incident occurred, which under legislation exempts gardaí from speed limits.

She has also recently given evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal.

O’Doherty has a considerable social media following, with over 21,000 followers on Twitter and over 11,000 followers on Facebook.
Kieran HarnettSource: Kieran Harnett via Stillwater
Joan Freeman

Independent Senator Joan Freeman is best known for her work outside of politics.

She is the founder of mental health charity Pieta House which has become a household name across Ireland in recent years – as has its flagship fundraising event Darkness Into Light, which sees participants meet before dawn and walk into the sunrise.  

Freeman wrote to a number of councils seeking their support for the presidency last month.

She said the reason that she is seeking their nomination is that she believes a presidency which “prioritise the well-being of the nation, physically and mentally, is a presidency that delivers the best quality of life for Irish people here and abroad”.
Irish Presidential electionGavin Duffy pitches for nominations to members of Waterford Co Council.Source: Niall Carson via PA Images
Gavin Duffy

The Dragon’s Den star made his announcement to join the race back in July.

The businessman and entrepreneur recently told Carlow County Council that he “will be a President who goes beyond speeches and invitations for tea in the Park”.

Taking something of a swipe at Michael D Higgins and reports that €3,000 was spent on a hotel stay during his tenure, Duffy said he will immediately move to put in place a comprehensive voluntary protocol to give effect to Freedom of Information laws.

Duffy is also a former president of the Hunting Association of Ireland and previously defended the Ward Union Hunt when the Green Party wanted to ban it.

When asked about this, Duffy said the hunt in question is “not a bloodsport” and that no deer are killed.
KEVIN SHARKEY MUSIC PRESENTERS BAILEYS COW PARADEFile image Kevin SharkeySource: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland!
Kevin Sharkey 

Donegal artist Kevin Sharkey recently told Carlow County Council that he wants to address racism in Ireland, saying that there needed to be an open dialogue.

Kevin is a full-time artist who has exhibited his work throughout the world.

Sharkey recently made headlines when he spoke out after being “excluded” from a meeting in Waterford -  Joan Freeman, Gavin Duffy and Patrick Feeney all addressed Waterford City and County Council asking councillors to nominate them to run for president.

He said he had written to Waterford councillors seeking to address them but received no reply adding that he almost went along anyway.
Irish Presidential electionPatrick Feeney pitches for nominations to members of Waterford Co Council.Source: Niall Carson via PA Images
Patrick Feeney

A former Aer Lingus employee, Feeney recently told Carlow County Council that he wants to be president so that he can challenge the status quo.

Feeney received 22 votes in the 2016 general election in the Galway West constituency.

He also told Carlow County Council that he wants electoral reform, but ultimately he wants Carlow to get its beet factory back, adding that both Carlow and Waterford should have standalone universities.
File Photo RTÉ has apologised to businessman and former presidential candidate Seán Gallagher and paid him a sum in settlement over a tweet read out on a live televised debate during the 2011 presidential election campaign.Seán GallagherSource: Sam Boal
Seán Gallagher

Another Dragon, Seán Gallagher wrote to county councils in July asking them to formally set aside time to discuss nominations for the president of Ireland.

While he has not yet publicly campaigned for a nomination from councils or members of the Oireachtas, RTÉ reported last week that sources close to Gallagher have said he is “actively considering” a second bid and is expected to make up his mind in the next two weeks.

The domain www.seangallagher2018.ie has been registered in the last week but is yet to go live.

The businessman ran in 2011 presidential election but was defeated by Michael D Higgins.

What’s next? 

While many of the candidates have had the chance to present for Waterford and Carlow County Councils, other councils will not meet again until September.

So the clock is ticking to get on the ballot.

Councils can’t officially nominate anyone until after the writ is moved calling an election, which is done by Minister for Housing and Local Government Eoghan Murphy.

This has to be done at least 60 days before a new president is due to be inaugurated.

Councils can vote to indicate their intention to nominate a candidate but it’s not binding.

Sinn Féin’s candidate is expected to be announced by 16 September.

Nominations will be submitted by the five Cúige regions or regional bodies to the Sinn Féin leadership.

A maximum of two candidates can be selected, and under the selection process, each candidate will have to receive the support of the six Cumann.

Martin McGuinness contested the 2011 election for Sinn Féin, getting 243,030 first preference votes – 13.7% of the votes.

The current favourite to get the nomination from Sinn Féín is MEP Liadh Ní Riada.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy

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Adam Daly

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