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Sean Gallagher Sam Boal/
Guess who's back

Ex-Áras candidate Sean Gallagher asks county councils to clear time to discuss nominations

He said that this would help to ensure a “fair playing field for all potential candidates” contesting Michael D Higgins.

FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE Sean Gallagher has written to all of the councils in Ireland asking that they formally set aside time to discuss nominations for the president of Ireland.

Gallagher has not said, however, whether he wishes to contest the election himself.

Today, Michael D Higgins confirmed that he will seek a second term in the Áras, with many of the main parties not yet indicating if they’ll run a candidate against the ex-Labour TD.

A candidate needs the support of 20 Oireachtas members or four local authorities to get on the ballot, which would be held in October.

So far, independent senator Gerard Craughwell is the most high-profile likely opponent for Higgins.

Gallagher, a businessman best known for his appearances on the Dragon’s Den programme, was the surprise front-runner for much of the 2011 campaign but lost out to Higgins in the election.

In his letter to the mayor and cathaoirleach of each local authority today, he suggested that they formally schedule a nomination for the presidential election on the agendas of their September council meeting.

Gallagher said he had been contacted by a large number of councillors from local authorities around the country who’d expressed concern about the “very limited time frame” that now exists to allow a prospective candidate receive a nomination.

He said: “In the interest of democracy and the widest electoral choice possible, I would appeal to you to ensure that you and your council colleagues exercise your constitutional right to nominate a candidate if you so wish.”

Councils doing this would help to ensure “a fair playing field for all potential candidates” and ensure that the “office of President of Ireland is not to be dictated by the narrow interests of political parties acting to prevent a democratic contest”, Gallagher said.

As I said repeatedly during the course of the 2011 presidential election, it is vital for everyone in public life to facilitate the process by which more candidates are encouraged to come forward to more fully reflect the diverse and changing Ireland we now live in.

Fianna Fáil has said it would back Higgins for re-election, while Fine Gael are set to confirm its stance tomorrow. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has already indicated he’s likely to back Higgins for a second term.

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