The Presidential race is on

The Presidential race is on

WITH PRESIDENT Michael D. Higgins standing down after his maximum 14 years in the job, the jockeying for position among candidates has begun. But recent polls demonstrate that two possible runners may struggle

neither Bertie Ahern nor Gerry Adams would be popular choices for the Irish presidency, according to recent opinion polls. According to a Sunday Business Post/ Red C poll some 59 per cent of those surveyed said they would vote for neither. 

There has been wide speculation that the former Taoiseach and/or the former Sinn Féin president might run in the next presidential election which is due in 2025. However, neither Ahern nor Adams has stated that they will run, although neither has said that they won’t. 

Both politicians are seen as being key in the negotiations during the peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement, but both have been mired in controversy before that. 

Bertie Ahern’s financial affairs came under scrutiny during the Mahon Tribunal.

A public inquiry in Ireland that investigated allegations of corrupt payments to politicians regarding political decisions. In the wake of its findings in 2012, Bertie Ahern resigned from the party, only re-joining again in 2023. This move has paved the way for speculation to grow about a tilt at the Áras. But the latest poll findings show he would be far from a shoo-in. This is backed up by a previous Irish Times/Ipsos poll finds. Just 7 per cent of voters said they would “definitely vote for him”. 

Gerry Adams’ name has regularly been mentioned in relationship to a presidential bid. But while many laud his efforts during the peace negotiations in the 1990s, a presidential campaign would undoubtedly refocus on his own past and his relationship with the IRA during the worst years of the Troubles. Adams has always denied being a member of the Provisional IRA. But journalists, historians and former IRA members have cast doubt on his claims. A presidential campaign would undoubtedly see a forensic examination of his past. 

In the Business Post / Red C poll only 19 per cent of respondents confirmed they would vote for Adams. In the 2011 election, Martin McGuinness stood as the Sinn Féin candidate. He received 13.7 per cent of the final vote. 

Bertie Ahern scored marginally higher with 21 per cent saying that they would vote for him. But if it were just a two-way run-off, 59 per cent of respondents said they wouldn’t vote at all. However, it is extremely unlikely that only two candidates would run. At least 20 members of the Oireachtas have to or at least four county or city councils are needed before a candidate can enter the race. For a prominent politician or community worker this is not a terribly difficult hurdle to cross. In 2011, when President 

Higgins was elected, a total of seven candidates stood. 

Arguably, each of the last three Irish presidents has been a surprise choice.

Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese were largely unknown to the wider Irish public, and Michael Higgins, while highly respected, similarly had a low public profile. 

Speculation remains as to whether the members of the diaspora will be allowed to vote in the 2025. Late last year Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs Colm Brophy said that the government might be able to hold the relevant referendum in Ireland in 2024 in time to give citizens abroad to vote in 2025, should those living in the Republic vote favourably.