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Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan says she would still help a latecomer get a nomination to contest the presidential election - even though she will now be supporting Michael D Higgins in the election itself. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
Race for the Áras

O'Sullivan leaves door open for late Áras candidates

Maureen O’Sullivan says she’ll be supporting Michael D Higgins – but will offer to nominate an independent candidate.

INDEPENDENT TD Maureen O’Sullivan has given her backing to Labour’s Michael D Higgins for October’s presidential election – but has left the door open for other like-minded candidates to seek her nomination if she agrees with “what they stand for”.

Speaking to this afternoon, O’Sullivan confirmed a report carried in today’s Sunday Times (subscription needed) that she was to support Higgins for president – explaining that she had always told the Labour party president he would be her second preference.

“I was on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the last Dáil with both Michael D [Higgins] and David Norris, and have great respect for both men, and their stance on many issues and on social justice,” she said.

When Norris had declared his intention to stand in the election, “I had said to Michael, ‘You’re going to be my number two’, so with the departure of David Norris, I’ve met Michael and said, ‘You’re number one now.’”

O’Sullivan said she would still be willing to sign a nomination form for late entrants to the election if she felt they were ‘credible’.

I would still nominate another candidate… if I agree with what they stand for, and they need me as one of the twenty [signatories], I would certainly consider them.

I will support [Higgins], and he knows that, but if there’s another credible left-wing independent candidate with whom I agree, I’ll support them in getting nominated.

Asked if she would sign a nomination paper for a late entrant with whom she was not politically aligned, O’Sullivan commented: “I’d have to really think about that one.”

The Dublin Central TD added, however, that it was unlikely for another candidate to announce their intention to stand with just two months to go until polling.

The disclosure does mean, however, that a latecomer could still secure a nomination from members of the Oireachtas, even if they had already declared their formal support for another contender.

David Norris had secured the support of 15 TDs and Senators at the height of his now-abandoned campaign; two of those, senators Fiach Mac Chonghaile and Katherine Zappone, said they would nominate Norris although they were supporting Higgins in the campaign proper.

Fellow independent TD Finian McGrath – who was one of the three independents to withdraw support for Norris in the final days of his campaign – this afternoon told this website that he had not yet decided who he would be support in the election.

McGrath added that he would decide on whether he would support any candidate in “early September”.

A number of other TDs and senators who had originally agreed to nominate Norris had yet to return contact at the time of publication.

There are 19 TDs and 14 Senators who are either independents or who are members of smaller parties, whose support could be sought to pass the threshold of 20 as required by the Constitution.

Fianna Fáil’s sub-committee tasked with recommending a party strategy for the election will meet this week to decide on whether Fianna Fáil should run a candidate.

The Sunday Business Post (print only) suggests that a majority of that committee will recommend that the party not run a candidate, instead spending its campaign funds rebuilding the party after its poor performance in the general election six months ago.

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