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S.F. to challenge Higgins for presidency

President Michael D. Higgins, center, is pictured with veteran journalists Vincent Browne and Ursula Halligan at an event at Áras an Uachtaráin on June 27 to honor the Suffragettes and to mark the centenary of the breakthrough for women's right to vote in elections. ROLLING NEWS .IE

By Anthony Neeson

Sinn Féin are set to contest the Presidential election in October after Michael D Higgins said he will seek to extend his current seven years.

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With Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour backing the current President, Sinn Féin’s national executive at the weekend agreed to contest the election. A number of Independents are also trying to get their names on the ballot paper.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Ireland and the world have changed in the last seven years since the last presidential election.

“A new generation has become politically engaged and have been central to changing Ireland for the better as we saw in the marriage referendum and in the referendum to remove the Eighth Amendment,” she said. “In those referenda, young people voted in unprecedented numbers.

“It is right that we give this generation the opportunity to be part of a wider conversation about what a better Ireland should look like. These citizens should be given the opportunity to be part of deciding who our President is. Those under the age of twenty-five have never voted in a Presidential election. They shouldn’t have to wait until the age of thirty-two to have this opportunity.”

She claimed the political establishment don’t want an election. While commending Michael D Higgins, she also said he is “a President we can be proud of."

“But this election will be about the next seven years, about who is best to lead our country into the that future. An Uachtarán that can represent the future as well as our proud past.”

There has been speculation in recent days that the party may select MEP Liadh Ní Riada to run in the election. Ms Ní Riada is the youngest daughter of composer and musician Seán Ó Riada. There has also been speculation that Belfast solicitor John Finucane is also in the running for a candidacy. He is the son of murdered human rights solicitor Pat Finucane and came within 2,000 votes of unseating the DUP’s Nigel Dodds in last year’s Westminster election for North Belfast.

In the 2011 presidential election Michael D Higgins said he would only complete one term as President. The 77-year-old is the clear favorite to be re-elected to Áras an Uachtaráin.