Irish presidential field starting to look crowded

The Irish presidential race is a little clearer this week, as several candidates have stepped forward to throw their respective hats into the ring for October's poll.

The Labour Party announced their candidate, New York-based publisher Niall O'Dowd is in talks to become one for two other parties, and a former MEP has announced her intention to get into the electoral fight.

Michael D Higgins has won the Labour Party nomination to run as its candidate. The party president defeated former party adviser Fergus Finlay and former senator Kathleen O'Meara at a convention in Dublin at the weekend.

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The 70-year-old polled 37 votes, compared to 18 for Mr. Finlay and seven for Ms. O'Meara and becomes the first official candidate in the race to succeed President Mary McAleese in the autumn.

Mr. Higgins was first elected to the Seanad in 1973 and to the Dáil in 1981, serving later as minister for arts, culture and the gaeltacht from 1993 to 1997. He retired as TD for Galway West ahead of the general election earlier this year to concentrate on his presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, publisher and journalist Niall O'Dowd will hold talks with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin in an effort to secure their backing in his bid to become an independent candidate for the presidency.

Mr. O'Dowd said he has had some "very good soundings" from both parties and will hold further discussions with them later this week.

"The reality is you have to fish where the fish are and the only votes for me are with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin. While the logistical reality of running against a major party and a well-funded candidate is difficult, I have taken a lot of long shots in my life," he said.

O'Dowd said the president of Ireland could be "a door opener" by talking to heads of corporations in America to create the conditions for "diaspora direct investment" in the country.

He said he would announce his final decision on whether he will stand or not in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, former MEP and minister of state, Avril Doyle, announced her intention to seek the Fine Gael's nomination.

Doyle said she was best candidate to "credibly represent" urban and rural Ireland, and the core values of Fine Gael, which she described as "honesty, integrity and decency."

She now enters the internal Fine Gael race with MEPs Mairéad McGuinness, Gay Mitchell and former European Parliament president Pat Cox who all looking for the party's backing. the winner will be decided at a party convention in Dublin on July 9.