Fine Gael likely to back Michael D Higgins for second term as president

A decision will be announced after the parliamentary party meets this evening

Fine Gael likely to back Michael D Higgins for second term as president

Leo Varadkar receives his Seal of Office from President Michael D. Higgins after he was confirmed as Taoiseach, 03-03-2018. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

Fine Gael is likely to back Michael D Higgins for a second term as President.

The party meets this evening to decide what to do now that the President has sought seven more years in office.

With Fianna Fáil and Labour backing Michael D Higgins and Sinn Féin likely to run their own candidate, Fine Gael's decision tonight will effectively put a limit on the number of independent candidates that can run.

If they back the incumbent as expected - it would make it very difficult for someone to get the 20 TDs or Senators or the four local councils needed to get on the ticket.

Tow the line

And Leo Varadkar has said local councillors will be expected to follow the parliamentary party decision.

“If we decide to actively support the candidate that would mean active support – not assisting other candidates and contributing to the campaign in all the ways that you normally do.”

The arithmetic leaves it unlikely more than one Independent candidate could get a nomination.

Decision

Some Independent TDs and Senators are also expected to back Michael D Higgins.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has said he still has not made up his mind.

“That is something I will discuss with my own team; I haven’t had an opportunity to do that yet,” he said.

“I will be doing that over the next few days.”

The race for the Arás is firmly on, but so far only Michael D has a place at the starting blocks.