Fine Gael to back President Michael D Higgins for second term

Fine Gael TDs and Senators this evening decided not to run their own candidate

Fine Gael to back President Michael D Higgins for second term

Michael D Higgins. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Updated 20:40

Fine Gael will back President Michael D Higgins for a second term as President.

The party has decided against running its own candidate.

President Michael D Higgins now has the backing of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for a second term in office.

At a parliamentary party meeting this evening, Fine Gael TDs and Senators decided not to run their own candidate, and to support the incumbent.

Nine of the 12 Fine Gael members who spoke at this evening's meeting were in favour of backing the current President's re-election bid.

The party's executive council will have the final say on the matter next week, but is expected to support the decision made this evening.

Speaking after the meeting, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "The recommendation that we're making today is that the Fine Gael party will support President Higgins's bid for re-election - we'll support his campaign actively, and campaign for him.

"We think he's served the country really well, and I think he deserves a second term. Both he and Sabina, I think, have done a fabulous job over the last seven years."

It means Sinn Féin may be the only large party to run a candidate in the election.

The party's Ard Comhairle will make a decision on Saturday.

The backing of Michael D Higgins by Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin will make it very difficult for Independent candidates to even get on the ballot.

TDs, Senators and councillors from those two parties will not be allowed to facilitate any candidates.

Those seeking to get the backing of the required 20 TDs or Senators or four local councils will have an uphill battle even to have the chance to challenge President Higgins.

Several others have expressed interest in an Áras bid - including artist Kevin Sharkey and independent Senator Gerard Craughwell.

Additional reporting by Stephen McNeice