Irish President Michael D Higgins launches bid for re-election

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Irish President Michael D Higgins has launched his reelection campaign in Dublin on Wednesday as the first sitting Irish President in 52 years to face a contest for re-election.

The 77-year-old independent candidate set out his vision for the next seven years for a republic “of equality, sustainability and possibility”.

“My campaign will be modern, energetic and inclusive, drawing on the enthusiasm of thousands of supporters from all walks of life in communities across Ireland.

“It will be a dignified and respectful campaign in which my supporters and I will work to sustain the dignity of the office of President, which belongs not to any individual, but to the present and future citizens of Ireland,” he said.

He highlighted four themes which would shape his future Presidency, including widening participation in society and institutions while addressing exclusion, isolation and inequality.

Irish presidential race
President Michael D Higgins at the launch of his re-election campaign (Niall Carson/PA)

As President, he says he would bring respect, honesty, inclusion and understanding to the period of commemorations.

Addressing Brexit, the President says he would ensure that Ireland remains a principled and powerful voice on the international stage, while deepening connections with the diaspora.

“We are in very difficult waters, there are real economic concerns as well as concerns regarding cross border traffic.

Irish presidential race
President Michael D Higgins at the launch of his re-election campaign (Niall Carson/PA)

“In fact when the Brexit decision was taken, East-West relations were probably never better.”

When asked about the reunification of Ireland post-Brexit, the President said it was very hypothetical, and important not to rush something that could be divisive, adding that he had spoken to many communities in Northern Ireland about many issues.

In regards to claims over the summer that the President stayed in a 3,000 euro a night hotel in Geneva, the President said travel arrangements are made by the Department of Foreign Affairs and nothing to do with him.

“I’ve never asked to stay in a particular hotel, I’ve stayed in hostels, I’ve stayed in tents in refugee camps in Somalia, I’ve stayed in difficult circumstances all over the world.

“To be frank, I couldn’t care less if I stayed in a tent.”

There are six candidates in the running including Mr Higgins.

When asked about recent comments made by other candidates about his age, expenditure and whether a recent security breach at Aras an Uachtarain was a “stunt”, Mr Higgins said he found it unhelpful.

“I don’t think it’s useful at the very beginning to be accusing your opponents of fabrication.”

He added that he no longer smoked or drank and had a yoga teacher.

“I’m in great shape now for a second term.”

He added that those who said they would forgo the Presidential salary were sending out the wrong message, that only those who have made personal fortune should be contesting the highest representative post in the country, an opinion he said he did not agree with.

More than 4,000 people have already registered as supporters of Mr Higgins’s campaign in the last week, and the campaign already has 31,000 Twitter followers and 13,300 Facebook followers.

The election will take place on Friday October 26, with the winner inaugurated on November 11.

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