Fianna Fáil will not field candidate against Michael D Higgins

The party has confirmed it will support the former Labour Party candidate if he stands again

Fianna Fáil will not field candidate against Michael D Higgins

File photo of President Michael D Higgins at Merrion Square in Dublin, 14-04-2018. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Fianna Fáil will not field a candidate to stand against President Michael D Higgins in any upcoming election.

The party has confirmed it will support the former Labour Party candidate should he decide to seek a second term in office.

President Higgins will complete his seven-year term this autumn and he has yet to indicate whether he will stand again.

Speaking this afternoon, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the 77-year-old has “served the country with great distinction over the course of his first term both at home and around the world.”

“He enjoys widespread support across the country and has demonstrated his understanding and connection with communities across a broad range of issues in recent years.

"His national leadership during our celebration of the centenary of the Easter Rising set the absolutely correct tone and as we approach a series of centenaries of potentially more divisive events in our shared history, his experience and leadership will serve the country well.”

Deputy Martin took the decision following a meeting with members of the Fianna Fáil front bench and Parliamentary Party this afternoon.

A number of potential candidates for the presidency have been floated in recent months – however President Higgins’ popularity will make it a daunting task to stand against him.

The outgoing head of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay recently told Newstalk that he would be interested in running – but not against President Higgins.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern made a similar claim.

Meanwhile, broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan has also ruled herself out of any upcoming race.

However Senator Gerard Craughwell has called for President Higgins to honour his campaign pledge to only serve a single term as president and vowed to take him on if he seeks a second term.

He has claimed that 17 members of the Oireachtas will support his bid – meaning he would need three more to secure a nomination.