Barrister and Irish Times columnist Noel Whelan
On RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Miriam O’Callaghan.
Barrister Noel Whelan told Miriam he’s not going to run for president.
Miriam O’Callaghan: “Noel, are you in or out?”
Noel Whelan: “I’m out. I made a decision at the end of February, that if the sitting president [Michael D Higgins] wasn’t contesting that I would put a campaign together. I spent about seven or eight weeks with a core team of about a dozen, some of whom I’ve worked on referendum and political campaigns before – considering the question. I came to the conclusion then, particularly in the last couple of months when President Higgins, the information about President Higgins running again firmed up that he, we have a good president. He was likely to be reelected in circumstance where he’s offering himself again.”
“In the last two weeks, I suppose I felt it was important enough to reconsider the decision again for two reasons. One, because I was surprised by the extent of reaction to the people saying they wanted to have an election and I think there’s a majority, a substantial majority, sorry, minority – I emphasise it is a minority – that has issues around the president contesting again in circumstances where he promised one term. And, secondly, I think the fact that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael didn’t have a candidate and weren’t in a position to or had decided not to, as it were, compel their councillors. Then that had opened, in my case, at least, a pathway to getting a nomination onto the ballot paper.
“But, having revisited it again and, you know, Eileen Gleeson, actually, is the best person to explain what the presidency was on a panel with you here two weeks ago. She said to people and it’s worth bearing in mind across the next three months. That when you hear the candidate, close your eyes and imagine, can they hold it at the UN General Assembly on behalf of Ireland? How do they sound, she said, at a diaspora event, in an Irish event, in Auckland or Chicago or Toronto? And how would they deal with a political crisis like we had, to some extent, after the last election. And she said you need to think of the person in that context.
“Now, I’m very conscious that anybody who puts his or her name up for consideration for the presidential election is going to be met with the suggestion, well ‘who do they think they are?’. And, you know, I come from a family of 12, from a small, rural post office in a little village in south Wexford, the first of any generation to get the chance to go to college which changed and transformed my life. And to think of oneself in that role or to have people say it, each of the candidates has is, ‘you should think about applying for putting up for that role’, is a big reach and ambition.
“But if I didn’t done reaches and ambitions in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
O’Callaghan: “Did you consider it seriously?”
Whelan: “I did. We spent eight weeks. And I’ll be straight, if Michael D Higgins wasn’t running then we wouldn’t have waited until now, we would have put a campaign in place, beginning last April.”
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Previously: It Starts Here