Pcall euro count 083900

Mitchell is FG's presidential choice

Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell will carry his party's flag into the upcoming Irish presidential election. Mitchell outpolled fellow European parliament member Mairéad McGuinness by an estimated 54 per cent to 46 percent in the second count at the party's convention last week in Dublin.

Former European Parliament president Pat Cox, a former Progressive Democrats who had declared for Fine Gael, was eliminated after the first count.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

"Gay Mitchell has within him all of the credentials to make an outstanding president, if the people decide to elect him," Taoiseach Enda Kenny said even as he brushed aside reports that he was disappointed in the outcome of the vote.

"You will have the 100 percent support of the entire Fine Gael party in what you do," Kenny told his party's nominee.

Mitchell's main rival at this stage is Labour Party candidate Michael D Higgins. The possible candidate who still polls higher than anyone in the race, Senator David Norris, is still attempting to secure the necessary level of county council support - that's the backing of four councils - to stand as an independent candidate in the election which is now expected to take place on October 21.

Norris has encountered difficulties since comments on sexuality he made in a newspaper interview a decade ago recently surfaced in the media.

Fianna Fáil has not offered a candidate thus far, and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has indicated that his party will hold back any decision on a candidate until September.