Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein will not unveil presidential candidate until six weeks before election

The Sinn Fein candidate will challenge current President Michael D Higgins.

Sinn Fein is to unveil its presidential election candidate in September – six weeks before Ireland makes it choice.

The chairman of the party’s presidential election committee, David Cullinane, outlined the selection process on Friday.

Nominations will open on August 20 and close on September 10 while the party’s Ard Chomhairle will meet on September 16 to select the candidate for the presidential election.

The Sinn Fein candidate will challenge current President Michael D Higgins after he announced his intention to seek a second term in office earlier this month.

We want this to be a contest. We want this to be about the future of Ireland and a discussion about what type of society, what type of country we want Sinn Fein's David Cullinane

There may be a number of other candidates in the running, however no one has officially put their name forward.

Under the Sinn Fein selection, the cuige – regional group – can nominate two candidates which must be backed by the six cumann.

“Sinn Fein is in this campaign to win,” the TD said.

“We want this to be a contest. We want this to be about the future of Ireland and a discussion about what type of society, what type of country we want.

“We want this to be a national election, it’s a pity people in the north don’t have a vote but we will mobilise people from all over Ireland, all 32 counties, to get behind our candidate.”

Mr Cullinane said the Sinn Fein candidate will embody the changes that were seen in the same-sex marriage and abortion referendum.

“A lot of women came out in big numbers in the last (abortion) campaign,” he added.

“There are still massive issues in relation to gender pay and the patriarchal society women still live under.

“Women and men are demanding more social change and we want to see that.

“We want a candidate who can embody that, can reach out and speak to those people.”

He denied that unveiling the candidate just six weeks before the election was an attempt to avoid full scrutiny.

“There will be plenty of time to put any and every question to that prospective candidate, we are not in the business of hiding,” he said.

“We want this to be a very high-profile campaign, we will mobilise our party membership and all of our representatives.

“A six-week campaign is a long enough campaign, we are confident those six weeks will be plenty of time for our candidate to make a difference, for the people to get to know the candidate and take part in any hustings and debates.”

While Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour have all backed the current president, a number of others have expressed an interest in running for the presidency.

Senator Gerard Craughwell indicated his interest saying it was important that an election would take place, however he withdrew from the campaign earlier this week.

Another possible candidate was former GAA president Liam O’Neill, however he also ruled himself out saying he did not have the logistical group to support a campaign.

Independent senators Padraig O Ceidigh and Joan Freeman have also expressed an interest in contesting the election.

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