Ni Riada and TV celebs bid to replace Higgins as President

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Liadh Ni Riada MEP is set to be ratified as Sinn Fein Presidential election candidate this weekend, joining two reality television stars and a charity entrepreneur in the bid to oust the sitting Irish President, Michael D Higgins, from Aras an Uachtaran.

Despite the huge popularity of President Higgins, this is the first presidential election since 1965 involving an incumbent. At least four other candidates are to enter an increasingly bizarre political race.

Thanks to its strength in the Dublin parliament, Sinn Fein has the right to nominate a candidate. Party leader Marty Lou McDonald has vowed to do so to encourage a debate about Ireland, “about where we are and where we might go over the next seven years”.

The party will make an announcement on Sunday, but the selection of the Cork-based Ni Riada (third from left) appears assured following the decision by the party’s veteran TD, Caoimhghin O Caolain, to decline a nomination.

In a statement issued through the party’s press office, Mr O Caolain thanked the Sinn Fein structures, including the Connaught/Ulster Cuige [division], that nominated him for the role, but said that he did not wish to be considered. He gave a “personal and enthusiastic” endorsement to Ms Ni Riada.

“I am absolutely settled on returning to unelected life after more than 33 years of public elected service and do not wish to be considered for this honoured role,” he said.

“We have a most able and highly skilled woman potential candidate in Liadh Ni Riada MEP and I personally and enthusiastically add my name to her endorsement list. If ratified, I pledge my wholehearted support for her candidature.”

Meanwhile, Gavin Duffy (right) has become the latest star of the business reality show ‘Dragon’s Den’ to secure a nomination through Ireland’s local councils.

Duffy joins fellow ‘Dragon’ Sean Gallagher, a Presidential election candidate in 2011 who has strong support from Fianna Fail councillors. Gallagher (left) fell short last time out amid accusations that he had functioned as a ‘bagman’ for the party. Duffy has been nominated by four county councils, Meath, Carlow, Wicklow and Waterford, while Gallagher has the support of councils in Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Wexford and Cavan.

Another TV ‘Dragon’, US business figure Peter Casey, has made headlines by using a chartered helicopter to fly him between council offices to seek their nomination, but has not yet received one.

However, independent Senator Joan Freeman (second from left) has already secured the necessary four nominations. The founder of a succesful suicide non-profit organisation, Pieta House, and a similar US-based firm, Freeman secured the support of Galway City Council, Galway County Council and Fingal County Council on Monday, to add to the nomination she received from Cork City Council last week.

Another prominent candidate, journalist and anti-corruption campaigner Gemma O’Doherty, has told councillors she is battling the elite, but has not yet won a nomination. Ms O’Doherty has said she is working “in the furtherance of my desire to serve the cause of truth, justice and integrity for, and on behalf of, the Irish people”.

Also seeking a nomination from local authorities are: Norma Burke, Peter Casey, William Delaney, Patrick Feeney, John Groarke, Patrick Melly, Marie Goretti Moylan, Sarah Louise Mulligan, Kevin Sharkey, and James Smyth.

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