Higgins ‘fighting fit’ for presidential race

Higgins fighting fit presidential race
President of Ireland,  Uachtarán na hÉireann Michael D Higgins. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Irish president Michael D. Higgins has declared himself of excellent health in response to prospective challengers to his presidency stating their openness to publishing medical records during an election campaign.

By Colin Gannon

Irish president Michael D. Higgins has declared himself of excellent health in response to prospective challengers to his presidency stating their openness to publishing medical records during an election campaign.

Higgins, 77, is seeking a second seven-year term as president, and this has led to some outside interest in opposing Higgins’ at Áras an Uachtaráin, including most noticeably that of Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh and businessman Gavin Duffy.

Ó Céidigh, 61, the founder of airline Aer Arann, has not confirmed if he will stand against Higgins in his quest for re-election.

Higgins fighting fit presidential race
Padraig O Ceidigh. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Duffy, 58, recently announced his interest in entering the presidential race and is actively seeking a nomination from county councils.

Ó Céidigh has said he wants the medical records of all who will stand in the election to be released, a move Duffy said he would also support.

Higgins fighting fit presidential race
Gavin Duffy at the launch of RTEs new show Dragons Den. Phot: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

In Ireland, to successfully enter a campaign trail for president, a candidate must obtain the signatures of 20 TDs or senators on their nomination papers. Or, alternatively, a candidate is required to secure the backing of four county councils.

Social change

Due to his age, some question marks have been raised surrounding a second term, something he rejects entirely. Higgins – a well-respected, long-serving politician, published poet and sociologist – was speaking at the 50th annual Birr Vintage Week and Arts Festival in Co. Offaly on 5 August, when he addressed his potential rivals’ calls for medical records to be publicised.

The sitting president insisted he was in good health, making clear his intentions to run for office.

“My health is excellent, in fact everyone knows about it,” Higgins said. “Seven years ago when I was contesting the election there was great attention paid to the fact that I had damaged my knee at Cruinniú na mBád.

“After the inauguration on the 11th of November, the first Christmas, I got it repaired and by the middle of January I wasn’t even using a stick. There is a 110-degree bend in my knee now and the rest of my health as well is excellent.”

An exceptionally popular president, Higgins has been president during a period of social change in Ireland, with the landmark marriage equality and abortion rights referenda all passing successfully.

In 2014, he made the first official Irish state visit to the UK, during which he stayed with the Queen at Windsor Castle and addressed both houses of parliament – a trip seen as vital in maintaining and improving relations between the UK and Ireland.

Mainstream

He is being supported in his re-election campaign by the majority of mainstream Irish parties – Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour Party – but Sinn Féin’s decision to field a candidate confirmed that an election is guaranteed to take place. It is currently unknown who Sinn Féin – led by Mary Lou McDonald following the stepping down of Gerry Adams late last year – will put forward as a nominee, although an announcement is expected within the coming weeks.

Aside from Duffy and Ó Céidigh, a number of others signalled their interest in opposing Higgins, including independent senators Gerard Craughwell and Joan Freeman, as well as Dublin City Councillor Christy Burke and artist Kevin Sharkey. Craughwell, however, has since rescinded his interest, citing the financial strains of running a campaign.


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