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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 16 September, 2019
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Race for the Áras: Joan Freeman asks councils to convene special meetings

The current situation makes it very difficult for prospective candidates to organise campaigns, Freeman said.

File photo: Joan Freeman at the launch of Darkness into Light 2016
File photo: Joan Freeman at the launch of Darkness into Light 2016
Image: Sasko Lazarov via Rollingnews

INDEPENDENT SENATOR JOAN Freeman has written to a number of county councils asking them to convene a special meeting to decide on nominating people for president because otherwise, candidates won’t get a fair run at it.

Freeman, the founder of mental health charity Pieta House, had previously written to a number of county councils seeking their support for a potential bid for the presidency.

However, in her letter this afternoon, Freeman has asked for the opportunity to present to councils for their nomination so that she can assemble “a comprehensive campaign in order to compete in the upcoming presidential election”.

Anyone interested in running for the presidency must be nominated by 20 members of the Oireachtas or four local authorities.

That cannot officially happen, however, until local government minister Eoghan Murphy moves the writ for the election – and that’s not expected to happen until the end of next month.

Freeman said that this effectively meant “prospective candidates’ hands are tied by the Government in progressing individual campaigns to compete in the Presidential race”.

“Without an indication of support from councils, it will prove extremely difficult to raise the necessary finance and put in place adequate personnel to establish campaign plans were candidates forced to wait until the 10 September,” Freeman wrote in her letter.

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In her letter to county councils last week Freeman said the reason that she is seeking their nomination is that she believes a presidency which “priorities 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”.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are planning to back President Michael D Higgins for re-election – as are Labour. Sinn Féin has said it will contest the presidential election, but no candidate has yet been announced.

Gerard Craughwell, the independent senator who announced his intention to run for the Áras last summer but who dropped out earlier this week, had criticised Higgins for waiting to announce he would run for a second term until well into July – as the Oireachtas and the councils head into their summer breaks.

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Adam Daly

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