Gay Mitchell will run for Fine Gael in the Presidential election this autumn after winning the nomination race at the expense of Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s favored candidate, Pat Cox.
Currently a member of the European Parliament for Dublin, Mitchell will fight for the right to succeed Mary McAleese when the election takes place on October 21st.
Newspaper reports on Sunday claim that Kenny was visibly disappointed when his ally Cox was eliminated in the first count, leaving European Parliamentarian Mairead McGuinness to face up to Mitchell.
Despite Kenny’s backing, Cox received less than 25 percent of the initial vote at the special congress in Dublin.
Mitchell, a former junior Minister, won the second round by a 10 percent margin, polling 55 percent support to 45 percent for McGuinness.
Mitchell and Kenny engaged in a ‘stern’ conversation after the election when the Fine Gael candidate revealed he is to take a week’s holiday.
Prime Minister Kenny is reported in the Sunday Independent as saying: “Take your holidays and enjoy it because, believe you me, when you come back you better be ready for one hell of a campaign.”
The successful candidate did however have his own go at the party hierarchy over their support for former Progressive Democrat Cox, who only joined Fine Gael in the last month.
“We are the hierarchy, the parliamentary party; the executive council made a very firm point. They re-established themselves and made a very firm point as to who makes the decisions,” said Mitchell.
He later told supporters: “This is only the start of this, we now look to the next step in the 12 weeks ahead. Thank you all.”
A frosty Kenny took exception when journalists asked him if he was deeply unhappy with the outcome of the Fine Gael selection process.
“Am I supposed to be going around grinning like a Cheshire cat at everything?” he asked a reporter who remarked that the party leader looked disappointed.
Speaking after his defeat, Cox wished Mitchell well.
“I approached this with a sense of calm and I had to prepare myself for defeat as much as for victory. But I am on board and will help in whatever way I can,” he said.
Meanwhile, independent candidates David Norris, Mary Davis and Sean Gallagher will address North Tipperary County Council on Monday in an attempt to win support for their nominations.
Special Olympics chief Davis is also due to meet Limerick County Council on Monday.
Candidates must receive backing from four councils or 20 members of the Irish parliamentary system in order to secure a nomination for the October election.