Belfast Telegraph

Michael D Higgins claims public backing as he seeks second term

The Irish president had previously said he would only serve a single spell in office.

Ireland’s president has said encouragement from fellow citizens helped convince him to run for a second term.

Announcing his decision to seek re-election, Michael D Higgins explained why he had reconsidered his previous pledge to only serve one term as head of state.

“Many, in recent conversations with me about our country and its future, have expressed an opinion that I should offer myself again as a candidate,” he said.

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President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I am grateful to have had their advice, and indeed to have had the opportunity of reflecting on their suggestions. This has been invaluable to me.”

Though it has not had been formally confirmed whether Mr Higgins will face a contest this coming autumn, an election race is looking increasingly likely.

While Fianna Fail and Labour have backed Mr Higgins for another term, and Fine Gael has signalled an intent to do likewise, Sinn Fein has indicated it is likely to field a candidate.

Candidates require the support of 20 members of the Irish parliament or four local councils to enter the presidential race.

Independent senator Gerard Craughwell has also expressed an interest in running as has artist Kevin Sharkey.

Beaten 2011 candidate Sean Gallagher also hinted at possible involvement after he wrote to councils urging them to make time to hear pitches for support from potential candidates.

It was widely expected Mr Higgins would seek a second term.

He confirmed the decision while on a visit to Co Mayo on Tuesday.

Standing beside his wife Sabina, Mr Higgins said he would offer himself as an independent candidate when the Ministerial Order for a Presidential Election is made later in the year.

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President Michael D Higgins lays a wreath during a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising (Niall Carson/PA)

“Since my inauguration in 2011, I have sought to reflect the concerns of the Irish people, as well as celebrating their achievements,” he said.

“I have taken the opportunity too of addressing some of the long term and deep structural issues within Irish society – including poverty, exclusion, and inequality in its many forms.

“In responding to these issues, I have highlighted the importance of new ideas and of compassionate, creative communities.

“Many who have contacted me also spoke of the new challenges of Brexit, particularly in regard to Northern Ireland and the challenges presented in our agri sector. They have also stressed the need for a truly social Europe, the fragility of the multilateral system and our response to climate change and sustainable development on a shared planet.

“They have noted the importance  of representing Ireland abroad in a positive and effective way.”

It is therefore in a full understanding and consideration of all the requirements of the role, that I will be offering myself as a candidate to serve and represent the Irish people Michael D. Higgins

He said he had given “long and careful consideration” to his decision.

“When I was seeking election to the Presidency in 2011, I knew that I could bring to the office my political and academic training, as well as all of my wider experience of life,” he said.

“Yet, I was also aware that I could only anticipate what the Office would demand.

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Mr Higgins at an event in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I have now met all those demands, both ceremonial, constitutional and political and have responded with what I believe to be the best of my abilities.

“It is therefore in a full understanding and consideration of all the requirements of the role, that I will be offering myself as a candidate to serve and represent the Irish people.

“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.”

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