One of Ireland’s most popular Presidents is to seek a second term as Uachtarán na hÉireann. Michael D. Higgins has strong Clare connections as his early years were spent on a farm in Ballycar and at school in St Flannan’s College. His brother John, still lives in Newmarket-on-Fergus and his sister Caitlín in Shannon.
This year Michael D. celebrated his 77th birthday. During his time in office the President has remained within constitutional boundaries when it comes to politics but nevertheless was outspoken on how the EU dealt with the economic crisis and on issues such as housing and health.
An avid soccer fan who supports Galway Utd, President Higgins has been a hugely popular presence at major sporting occasions. Age should be no barrier to his continuing in office as Eamon de Valera was 90 when he stepped down and the first president Douglas Hyde was almost 85.
A statement issued from Áras an Uachtarán noted: “President Michael D. Higgins wishes to confirm that he will be offering himself as an independent candidate, under Article 12.4.4 of Bunreacht na hÉireann, when the Ministerial Order for a Presidential Election is made later in the year.
“The Government has been informed of this decision. The President’s programme of official duties and engagements continues.”
President Higgins has the support of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for a second term in office. Sinn Fein will once again run its own candidate. It had been speculated that SF would back Independent Senator Frances Black, but the well-known singer scotched the rumours saying, “I have no intention or any interest in running for president because I like our president and I will be supporting him if he decides to run again.”
At a meeting of its parliamentary party, Fine Gael decided to support Michael D. Higgins in any presidential election. Leo Varadkar told his party’s representatives that they will be expected to back this decision.
The Taoiseach added, “In terms of putting party resources and party money behind the re-election campaign, we are willing to do that.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin was unequivocal in offering his party’s backing for the incumbent. Describing the President, Mr Martin said, “he has been engaging, and has represented the country abroad with distinction”.
“He has reached out to communities across this country, particularly to young people, and in that instance, I believe he is worthy of re-election and that is why we don’t have a hesitation in supporting him and endorsing him for a second term.”
At this stage, a presidential election seems certain as Senators Pádraig Ó Céidigh and Joan Freeman as well as Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice have already declared an interest in standing while businessman Seán Gallagher is trying to rally council support. To get on the ballot a candidate will need the support of 20 TDs and senators or four local authorities.
President Higgins’ term of office officially ends at midnight on November 10th 2018. Michael D. said he has been encouraged by many people to consider another term and if elected as an independent candidate he will serve a full seven years.
“I have given long and careful consideration to this decision. I believe there are good foundations for the further development of the Office of President and that the experience I brought to, and have gained within the role, could be of particular value as we enter a period of great challenge and possibility, at home and abroad,” he added.