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Here's what the presidential candidates think about Trump, Brexit and the Eighth Amendment

We’ve asked the six nominees why they are running and where they stand on a number of important issues.

6 candidates From left to right/top to bottom: Peter Casey, Gavin Duffy, Joan Freeman, Seán Gallagher, Michael D Higgins and Liadh Ní Riada. Source: RollingNews.ie

AS PART OF our presidential election coverage, TheJournal.ie has asked each nominee the same 12 questions so voters can see why the candidates are running and where they stand on a number of important issues.

All six candidates had the option of answering Yes, No or I’d rather not say to a number of questions, as set out below. They were invited to elaborate on their answers if they so wished.

Here are the questions we asked:

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

10. Should the Article referring to women’s “life within the home” be removed from the Constitution?

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

Here, in alphabetical order, is how the candidates answered:

Peter Casey

casey2 Peter Casey Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

As President, I could have more influence and impact than a TD. A TD is responsible for looking after local people in their constituency, but I would like to leverage our community across Ireland and around the world to effect change that will benefit Irish people everywhere.

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

  • Connecting with the Irish diaspora in a practical, meaningful way
  • Promoting women’s rights, including ensuring strong representation of women on the Council of State
  • Promoting mental health and equality, particularly in workplaces

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

I’d rather not say: I never disclose who I vote for, in any election. A private ballot is a private ballot, and I wouldn’t ask anyone else who they are voting for either.

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

Other: People living in Northern Ireland who have Irish passports should be allowed to vote in a Presidential election.

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

I’d rather not say: I never reveal who I vote for, or how I vote, and it should have no bearing anyway on my suitability as President of Ireland.

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

No, the people of the UK voted and their wishes should be respected.

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?

If the Taoiseach invites Mr Trump to Ireland, then I would be happy to meet him and welcome him.

I would take the opportunity to ask him to consider the challenges faced by the 50,000 undocumented Irish in the US who cannot come home for the funerals of loved ones. I would talk to him about how our small Nation can actually influence 40 million people in the US who identify themselves as Irish, and how the Irish have made a massive contribution to modern America.

The US is our largest trading partner, 25 of the top 50 companies in Ireland are from the US, and over 750 American companies operate in Ireland. Our Irish American links are powerful and we need to make them work harder, to influence change!

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

Other: I would be wary of a blanket amnesty, but I would urge the Department of Justice to look at a means to better resource the system, so that people’s lives aren’t put on hold for an interminable duration.

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

Yes, I support vaccinations 100%. The medical community is united in their backing for vaccinations, so I support them. It is hard to argue with medical fact, and vaccinations have proven massively significant in helping wipe out infectious diseases in the developed world and protecting from serious illness.

10. Should the Article referring to ‘women’s life within the home’ be removed from the Constitution?

It should either be removed or amended to reflect the norms of today. Anything which suggests that a woman’s role should be centred around the home, should be removed, as it is outmoded. Women patently contribute to the State in many diverse aspects of their lives, not just as homemakers, and equally men contribute to life within the home too!

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?

Yes, definitely.

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

I’ll publish another best-selling novel!

Gavin Duffy

6616 Gavin Duffy_90555628 Gavin Duffy Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

A TD’s role is to advocate and legislate on behalf of her/his constituents, whereas a President’s role is to represent us at home and abroad. Because I want to speak and highlight issues in a non-political way I am running for President.

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

Three initiatives or projects I am very committed to are:

  • As President, leading a nationwide schools’ campaign to tackle childhood obesity. It involves visiting primary and secondary schools to promote healthy eating and daily exercise.
  • Creating the Ireland International Youth Corps, where 18 to 25-year-olds volunteer to work abroad for approximately six months in the developing world.
  • To campaign for Big Tech to police the internet and not to allow them put the onus on parents to censor their children’s online interactions. For example, Big Tech knows who is searching for indecent photos of children and should be required by law to report such activity to local law enforcement.

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

Seán Gallagher

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

Yes, I agree with the current plans to allow this.

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

Yes. The challenge for the President now is ensure that those who voted no to repealing the eighth amendment are brought with us as Ireland becomes a more secular, true republic.

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

Yes. I would support any democratic initiatives such as a second vote or referendum on the terms that the UK is departing the EU. I am opposed to Brexit.

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?

Yes. Personally I fundamentally disagree with President Trump’s politics, but if he was officially visiting Ireland, out of respect for the office he holds, I would meet him or welcome him to Áras an Uachtaráin.

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

Yes. I believe a time limit should be put on how long one can be in Direct Provision. With a time limit, decisions will be made in advance of the expiry of the limit.

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

Yes, I never had any reservation about any WHO-approved vaccination programmes.

10. Should the Article referring to women’s “life within the home” be removed from the Constitution?

Yes. There are articles and wordings in our Constitution that now appear as anachronistic and I believe for the Centenary Commemorations of the founding of our State we need to fully review and update Bunreacht na hÉireann.

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?

Yes. I believe we need to extend restrictions on incitement to violence and hate speech to online, digital publishing.

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

I decline to answer this question as I am contesting the election on October 26th.

Joan Freeman

joan Joan Freeman Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

During my time as Senator, I brought in one very important piece of legislation that has passed through all stages of the Seanad which will make it illegal for a child to be admitted to an adult psychiatric unit. That is legislative work, and it’s very important work, but I want to do something bigger than that.

I want to build on the work that I’ve done in Pieta House and Darkness into Light and create a culture of wellbeing for Ireland. I’ve never been more certain that the time for this is now. Over the last few months, I’ve travelled around the country and I’ve met countless voluntary organisations who are struggling to support their communities. But I can see the ripples of change are there and there is a belief that as a nation we can do much more.

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

This culture of wellbeing is at the core of what I want to do as President and it will inform all of my initiatives. These are:

  • Building Stronger Communities at Home and Abroad
  • Nurturing our Young People
  • Valuing our Ageing Population

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

Seán Gallagher. I felt that, on the back of a deep recession, having a president who understood and could promote business was appropriate for Ireland at that time.

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

Yes. I think people who’ve only been living abroad for less than 10 years should still be entitled to shape the fabric of this country by allowing them to vote in constitutional referendums.

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

No. However, as I have said previously, my private convictions have never spilled into my roles as a mother, psychologist or Senator and nor will they as President.

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

I’d rather not say. I don’t think it’s appropriate for me as a Presidential candidate to comment on a second referendum. However, my primary concern is that the terms of the Brexit agreement protect an invisible border between North and South.

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?

Yes. The relationship between Ireland and the United States will last much longer than a 4-year Presidency.

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

I’d rather not say. As President, I can’t interfere in policy-making that surrounds asylum seekers living in Ireland. However, I do believe that the legal system needs to speed up the asylum application process and that anyone living in direct provision should be treated considerably better than existing standards. Some of those centres are inhumane and degrading, and we shouldn’t be seen to condone them.

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

Yes.

10. Should the Article referring to women’s “life within the home” be removed from the Constitution?

Yes, and I think [a referendum on it] should have been included on the same date as this Presidential election.

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?

Yes. Blasphemy is used as a means of persecuting people in other countries in a way that this country would never endorse.

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

Continue prioritising the mental health & wellbeing of the people of Ireland through my work as a Senator.

Seán Gallagher

gall Seán Gallagher Source: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

I think the role of a TD can be quite a constrained role. TDs have to join a political grouping in order to get speaking time in the Dáil, they join political parties and tow [sic] the party line in order to increase their influence.

I don’t like being constrained to group thinking. The office of the President is unique in that it provides an opportunity to set a tone and to form discussions while remaining disengaged from day-to-day politics.

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

One of the main topics I want to focus on is changing the perceptions of people with disabilities. If elected, I will launch ‘Promoting Ability’, a year-long initiative in the area of disability. The initiative will be launched on 3rd December 2018, to coincide with International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

It will focus on the almost 900,000 people across the island of Ireland with a disability, their carers and their families. We will nurture their uniqueness, promote opportunities for inclusivity and employment and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Since the foundation of the State, the Irish language has been a huge part of who we are and our unique identity. I take pride in the status of the Irish language, that is why I am committed to furthering my proficiency and if elected I will initiate a ‘Foghlaim Leis an Uachtarán’ programme whereby I will invite every citizen, regardless of nationality or proficiency level, to join me on a learning journey so we can spread the growth of the Irish language together.

My life has been shaped by countless inspirational women, my mother Ann, my wife Trish and my daughter Lucy to name but a few. On 2nd April 2019, 100 years to the day Countess Markievicz was appointed our first female Minister, I will convene an all-island gathering of past and present female elected representatives to mark the contribution of Countess Markievicz and their role in continuing her legacy. This summit at Áras an Uachtaráin will also bring together the next generation of female leaders and, in doing so, we can be confident that our future is bright and truly representative of the nation we have become.

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

I was delighted to vote for myself in the 2011 Presidential Election.

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

Yes. As I understand it, legislative proposals are currently being drafted in this area and if this came before me as President I would be delighted to sign it into law if it was deemed to be within the constitution.

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

Yes, I voted in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment.

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

Yes. This is a matter solely for the people of the United Kingdom to decide. However, I think it is fair to say that there is a large portion of Irish citizens who are understandably apprehensive about our future relations with the UK. I am personally very concerned about Brexit and the effects it will have on us, as our neighbours prepare to leave the EU.

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?
Yes. Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny and current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have both already extended an invitation to President Donald Trump to visit Ireland.

Ireland has a great reputation for welcoming visitors to our Country. If elected President I would of course welcome any Head of State that is invited by our Government.

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

Yes, once all the screening processes are completed. Direct Provision is a stain on our Government and society. If we look back in years to come I believe it could be the ‘Magdalene Laundry’ of our generation. I find it difficult to fathom that a country such as Ireland, which has more descendants living outside of the state than in it, should treat those in Direct Provision so badly. It is a shame and a scandal.

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

Unequivocally yes. The World Health Organization, the EU Health Commission and the HSE all advocate for the highly efficacious vaccine and I do too. My daughter and son will both be vaccinated.

10. Should the Article referring to women’s “life within the home” be removed from the Constitution?
Yes. Personally, I support the removal of the reference to ‘women’s life within the home’ from the Constitution, however this is a matter for the people of Ireland to decide.

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?
Yes. Personally, I support the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution, however this is a matter for the people of Ireland to decide.

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

I don’t countenance such an outcome.

Michael D Higgins

hig Michael D Higgins Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

I have served the public as a local authority member, a Senator, a TD and a Minister. I think people are well aware of the causes I supported in those roles, especially my support for equality, fairness and social justice.

As a Minister I was responsible for achievements such as the establishment of TG4 and Lyric FM, the ending of broadcast censorship, and a transformation in how arts, culture and heritage are accessed and supported in Ireland.

While I have achieved much in my role as a member of the Oireachtas I believe I can and do serve in a different, but equally important way, as President of Ireland.

Since becoming President I have upheld the important constitutional role of the Office, spoke, at home and abroad, about the great challenges and opportunities before our people with both understanding and substance and brought my values, energy and authenticity to every aspect of the Office.

I am now asking the citizens to vote for me to continue this work.

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

I have set out four main stands in my vision for Ireland in the coming years.

These are:

  • Equal and together – Everyone has a contribution to make and decisions are better when they draw on diverse perspectives and experiences. However, we need to recognise and tackle obstacles to equal participation such as exclusion, isolation and inequality.
  • Building strong sustainable communities – In counties, towns, villages and cities across Ireland Sabina and I have met with communities with strong ideas about how we can live and grow together in a sustainable way – thinking local and thinking long. The Presidency can and should support and encourage their voices.
  • Sharing history, shaping the future –I have, as President, emphasised the importance of respect, honesty and inclusion in our recent commemorations. The coming years will require thought and understanding as we reflect on some of the most challenging and difficult periods of our history. Just as important as understanding and respecting the past is using this opportunity to examine and debate the version of Ireland we wish to build for the future and the values that will guide the coming decades.
  • Ireland’s voice matters – As President, I have sought to deepen connections with our diaspora while also opening up new diplomatic, cultural and economic opportunities for our country. When I speak internationally on behalf of the Irish people, I am aware of the respect for our reputation as peacemakers and honest brokers. The Presidency can play a crucial role in sustaining positive relationships between our peoples at a time of political uncertainty.

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

Michael D Higgins

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

As President of Ireland it would be inappropriate for me to comment on matters that may be the subject of a constitutional referendum.

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

It would not be appropriate for an incumbent President to reveal which way he or she voted on a constitutional issue.

However, it is a matter of record that I opposed the introduction of the 8th Amendment in 1983.

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

As President of Ireland it is inappropriate for me to comment on matters regarding possible legislative/referendum proposals in a neighbouring jurisdiction.

Notwithstanding the political circumstance in the coming years the Presidency will have a central role in sustaining and enhancing relationships between our two islands in the coming years.

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?

As an incumbent President it is my duty to extend all appropriate courtesies to any head of state visiting Ireland and I will always uphold that principle.

However, I have always in exchanges with representatives of other nations focused on issues of human rights, equality and international co-operation particularly in relation our shared global challenges of peace-building and climate change.

These are themes I would raise with any US President.

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

I have visited Direct Provision Centres, most recently when I ensured that the Gaisce Presidential Awards are open to young people living in Direct Provision.

While this specific issue is, in the first instance, a matter for Government I have spoken about the recommendations of the McMahon Report and I believe that how we welcome and treat those who are displaced is an important reflection on our commitment to human rights.

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

Yes and it is important to note that improving the health of women and girls is one of our key commitments under the sustainable development goals.

10. Should the Article referring to women’s “life within the home” be removed from the Constitution?

As President of Ireland it would be inappropriate for me to comment on matters that may be the subject of a constitutional referendum.

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?

As President of Ireland it would be inappropriate for me to comment on matters that are the subject of a constitutional referendum.

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

The vision and values I have brought to the Presidency are the same ones which have driven me all my life and I will carry them forward in other ways. I will, in particular, continue to engage through reading, writing and debate with ideas that have the capacity to transform our world from an economic, ecological and ethical perspective.

Liadh Ní Riada

liadh Liadh Ní Riada Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

1. Why do you want to be President, rather than a TD?

It has been an honour to serve the people of Ireland South as an MEP since 2014. I’m part of a Sinn Féin leadership that is at the cutting edge of bringing about change in Irish society.

I want to be President to stand up for people and to confront the establishment.
The powers of the Presidency are limited but crucial. The office is hugely symbolic as to who we – the people of Ireland – are and what values we hold. I will be a strong, outspoken President. There will be no cosy consensus between the President and the government of the day if I am elected.

2. What are the three main topics you want to focus on while in office?

As President I will focus on Irish Unity. It is time to prepare for a United Ireland and I have indicated that I will initiate an inclusive Citizens Conversation on Irish Unity. Brexit has given additional urgency to this discussion. This will be a key part of my presidency and I will engage with people across this country, from North and South and from all communities and backgrounds.

I want to be a campaigning President who advocates for the people when they need it, particularly on issues such as the housing crisis, the need for improved public services and strengthening workers’ rights. These are the kind of issues which I would address the Oireachtas on. As President I could not stay silent while children sleep in temporary accommodation or in Garda stations.

I will also use the Presidency to encourage, support and promote the Irish language. As the first candidate from the Gaeltacht to contest the Presidency I feel huge responsibility to my community, to the Gaeltacht and to all those who want to learn Irish but haven’t had the opportunity to use the office of President to promote the Irish language.

3. Who did you vote for in the last presidential election?

I voted for Martin McGuinness and he remains an inspiration for me throughout this campaign. I want to build on what he achieved in 2011.

4. Should Irish citizens living outside the State be allowed to vote in presidential elections?

Yes, citizens in the North as well as those living outside of Ireland should be given a vote in Presidential election. It is disappointing that a referendum to provide for this has not happened to date but I hope this is the last Presidential election where these citizens are denied a vote.

5. How did you vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum?

I voted Yes and was delighted that we repealed the 8th Amendment to make this state a more caring and compassionate place for the women and girls. I think it is important that we now ensure that the North is next and that women in the north are not left behind when it comes to progressive change and access to healthcare.

6. Would you like there to be a second Brexit referendum?

Other: I think the most important thing in terms of Ireland when it comes to Brexit is that the unique position of the North is recognised and provided for. The North voted to remain in the EU and special status for the north is the only practical solution.

There can be no hard border in Ireland. It is for the British people to decide whether a second Brexit referendum is the best solution for them.

7. Would you be in favour of US President Donald Trump visiting Ireland while you are in office?

It is important that Ireland maintains good diplomatic relations with all other states and, as President, would welcome a visit by any head of state. If President Trump visited while I was in office I would use the opportunity to raise with him issues including climate change, the treatment of migrants and the need to have zero tolerance for racism, sexism and misogyny.

8. Should people who have been living in Direct Provision for five years or more be given a blanket amnesty?

Yes. I believe that the situation being experienced by those in Direct Provision is unacceptable. I think in the future we will look back on how we have treated vulnerable and desperate people fleeing persecution in their home countries the way we now look at the Magdalene homes. The position of those who have been in Direct Provision for a prolonged length of time must be regularised. It is unacceptable that children are spending their whole childhood in Direct Provision.

9. Given the recent measles outbreak and controversy surrounding the HPV vaccine, we want to know: Do you fully support vaccinations?

Yes, I fully support vaccinations. They are an important part of health promotion and the prevention of diseases including measles. The HPV vaccine is the best way to prevent cervical cancer and I fully support it. I would encourage all those eligible to have this vaccine.

10. Should the Article referring to women’s “life within the home” be removed from the Constitution?

Yes, the article referring to women’s “life within the home” should be removed from the constitution. However we do need to consider if the constitution should be amended to recognise and value the important role of carers.

11. Should the offence of blasphemy be removed from the Constitution?

Yes, the offence of blasphemy should be removed from the constitution.

12. What will you do if you aren’t elected President?

If I am not elected I will continue to represent the Irish people as an MEP for Ireland South.

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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