2004 Irish presidential election
The next Irish presidential election is due in 2004. The campaign provisionally started with the announcement in early 2003 that the Irish Labour Party will context the election, even if the outgoing and popular current president, Mary McAleese seeks a second term. It is speculated that in the event of full context, Mary McAleese might decide not to seek re-election. However, speaking on RTÉ's The Week in Politics programme in November 2003, Labour leader Pat Rabbitte failed when challenged to repeat the statement that the party will context the election irrespective of McAleese's decision.
As the major party of government, in the event of an election, the party is guaranteed to run a candidate. Its selection will rest on the decision of the current president, Mary McAleese as to whether she will seek a second term. In the event of an electoral contest, though she may nominate herself as a candidate (a right of all one term presidents or ex-presidents) she could expect to be endorsed as the Fianna Fáil candidate, should she run again, having been its candidate in 1997.
- current Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
- Fianna Fáil leader in Seanad Éireann and former minister Mary O'Rourke
- Brian Crowley, MEP
- former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds
Though Phoenix Magazine, a satirical political magazine, has suggested that the party may not run a candidate, as the current largest opposition party, Fine Gael would find it exceptionally difficult not to run a candidate without creating the impression, thanks to its disastrous 2002 general election performance (when it dropped from 54 seats to 31) that it itself saw itself as an electoral liability. Having contested all presidential contests (1945, 1959, 1966, 1973, 1990 and 1997) most political commentators expect it to run a candidate. Among the speculated candidates are:
- retiring MEP and 1997 candidate Mary Banotti
- former party leader Alan Dukes
- former party leader and Taoiseach John Bruton
- unsuccessful challenger for the party presidential nomination in 1997, Avril Doyle
In early 2003 Labour stated that irrespective of the attitudes of other parties and even in the event of President McAleese seeking a second term, the party would run a candidate. However party leader Pat Rabbitte appeared less committed in a television interview in November 2003, pointing out that all its attentions were focused on the two Irish elections already guaranteed in 2004, the european elections and the local elections to be held on 11 June.
- former Tánaiste Dick Spring
- former leader Ruairí Quinn
- independent senator and gay rights campaigner David Norris
- Former Social Democratic and Labour Party minister in Northern Ireland and deputy SDLP leader, Bríd Rogers
The independent bloc in Oireachtas Éireann has more than the required twenty TDs and/or senators to nominate a candidate. Either of the two main parties within this bloc, Sinn Féin and the Green Party could seek to have its candidate chosen, though as a TD or senator can only participate in one nomination, only one candidate could get through with the number of independents available. Alternatively the bloc could nominate an independent candidate. Possible candidates include:
- Senator David Norris - if he does not receive a Labour nomination;
- Kevin Lee - former emigrant who has already begun his campaign and been in contact with all local councillors;
- Dana, Rosemary Scallon MEP - family rights campaign and candidate in 1997;
- Mary Robinson (president: 1990-97) - a former president who has not served two terms may nominate themselves for election at any stage.
Past History of electoral contests
The electoral wins in contested polls are as follows
- Fianna Fáil - 1945, 1959, 1966, 1973, 1997
- Fine Gael - none
- independent supported by Labour - 1990
- Others - none
Only one contest took place involving a sitting president. In 1966 President de Valera defeated Fine Gael's Tom O'Higgins by less than 1%.
On the basis of the evidence, whomever Fianna Fáil chooses in the 2004 Irish presidential election is the likely but not certain victor. Given the near defeat of a legendary nationalist figure like Eamon de Valera, President McAleese, should she choose to contest again, cannot be certain of victory. In an electoral contest under Proportional Representation with the Single Transferable Vote, the greater the number of candidates, the greater the likelihood that a Fianna Fáil candidate could be beaten, if all minor party candidates transfer their preferences to another strong opposition candidate.