Belfast Telegraph

President Miriam O'Callaghan... the Northern Ireland link

By Claire McNeilly

There could be another Northern Ireland connection to the Irish presidency if leading RTE presenter Miriam O'Callaghan decides to run for the job, as she's married to a Belfast man.

Mary McAleese was the first Irish president to come from Northern Ireland when she was elected in 2011.

Mother-of-eight Ms O'Callaghan (55) has neither confirmed or denied a desire to run for office but has plenty of time to make up her mind as the election is more than two years away. She was not at the launch of RTE's autumn schedule recently and her absence was noted as she is said to be centrestage at the event under normal circumstances.

The Prime Time host is currently on holiday with her husband Steve Carson who's a former director of programmes at RTE.

Together the couple co-own the successful TV production company Mint Productions, whose work has been among the nominees and winners at the Irish Film and Television Awards.

Mr Carson, who previously worked on programmes such as Spotlight and Panorama, recently left RTE to become Head of BBC Productions in Belfast - and the couple spend their time between Belfast and Dublin.

Kevin Bakhurst, managing director of news and current affairs at RTE, has said he had "no problems" with the presenter making a bid for the Irish presidency in 2018.

"She has two-and-a-half years to make up her mind," he said. "Would you know what you were doing in three years?"

Some people have said that presidential ambitions and Ms O'Callaghan's role presenting Ireland's flagship current affairs programme are incompatible.

Candidates must be nominated by at least four of the 31 county or city councils to run as an independent for the presidency.

Even though a key component of Ms O'Callaghan's job in RTE is interviewing politicians, Mr Bakhurst said it would not present any conflict of interest.

The Prime Time presenter has consistently refused to quash rumours that she wants to take over from President Michael D Higgins.

She also refused to rule out the possibility of running for the presidency at the launch of the Oireachtas Children's Future Health Group.

"I never even said anything about running for president," she said.

"Who knows what anyone's going to do in two or three years' time? It's miles down the road.

"I don't know where this has come from. We have a brilliant president at the moment."

Belfast Telegraph


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