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Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ni Riada vows to be a ‘new president for a new Ireland’

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The candidate said she would start a citizens’ conversation on Irish unity, if elected.

Irish presidential election

Sinn Fein’s candidate for Ireland’s presidential election has pledged to be a new president for a new Ireland.

MEP Liadh Ni Riada also vowed to initiate an “inclusive citizens’ conversation” on Irish unification if elected head of state in October’s poll.

The 51-year-old’s anticipated selection was confirmed at a meeting of Sinn Fein’s ruling council, ard chomhairle, on Sunday afternoon.

The former TV producer, who is daughter of legendary Irish trad musician and composer Sean O Riada, is a vocal Irish language advocate and one of Sinn Fein’s four MEPs.

Irish presidential election
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (right) with the party’s presidential candidate Liadh Ni Riada (Tom Honan/PA)

Married mother-of-three Ms Ni Riada, who has faced personal adversity with the death of both parents at an early age and the death of her first husband in her 20s, said she would be a “positive voice” for Irish unity.

“Ireland has radically changed since the last presidential election,” she told supporters in Dublin after her nomination was confirmed.

“We’ve become a more caring and inclusive society. A global inspiration when it comes to progressive social change.

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“But we are only at the beginning of this new chapter. It’s time for all of us, particularly our younger generation, to write our own story, to shape a new and United Ireland.

“Ireland needs an energetic president to support and encourage this journey.”

Ms Ni Riada becomes the fifth name in the mix for next month’s poll.

Sitting president Michael D Higgins, who was first elected in 2011, has already announced his intention to run for a second term.

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Irish presidential election
Irish Presidential candidate Gavin Duffy pictured at the Galway Summer Festival at Galway Racecourse (Brian Lawless/PA)

Two businessmen who were both investors on the Irish version of Dragons’ Den, Sean Gallagher and Gavin Duffy, are running as independent candidates, as is mental health advocate Senator Joan Freeman.

The Sinn Fein candidate vowed to champion a “caring and fair” Ireland.

“An Ireland where every child has a home. An Ireland that leaves no one behind,” she said.

She said she would launch a presidential initiative to recognise employers who paid fair wages and would lead a drive to bring home emigrants who left during the economic crash.

Ms Ni Riada said she wanted to take action on mental health issues and also promote the need to share the nation’s prosperity.

“My vision for a new Ireland is a pluralist and inclusive one, a United Ireland that respects the identities and traditions of all,” she added.

“I will be a positive voice for Irish unity, leading by example and demonstrating the outreach and inclusivity needed to bring the people of this island together.”

The Euro MP said Brexit would have a major impact on the country’s political and constitutional future.

“Increasingly the prospect, shape and nature of a united Ireland will be a feature of public discussion and political decision making,” she said.

“As president, I will initiate an inclusive citizens’ conversation on a future united Ireland.

“The past seven years have witnessed the disappearance of a lot of Ireland’s of old certainties. Partition too will be overcome.

“The tide of history is with those seeking to build a new, progressive and inclusive future.”

She said reconciliation would be a theme of her presidency.

“I am asking you to take that journey with me as I stand here before you today, as one of us, a proud Republican woman, asking you to help me become a president for all of us,” she told supporters wearing t-shirts carrying her name.

“Together we can win. Together we can make history. Together we can ensure that we have a new president for a new Ireland.”

Sean Gallagher and Senator Joan Freeman
Sean Gallagher and Senator Joan Freeman are independent candidates in the presidential race (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Gallagher, Mr Duffy and Ms Freeman all secured the required endorsement of four local councils in order to officially become candidates.

As incumbent, Mr Higgins is able to nominate himself while Sinn Fein had the necessary political strength in the Irish parliament to name its own candidate.

The two biggest parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are both backing Mr Higgins for a second stint, as is the Labour Party.

A range of other would-be independent candidates still retain hope of convincing undeclared councils to back their bids before the September 26 deadline.

They could also secure a nomination with the backing of 20 independent members of both houses of the Irish parliament, the Dail and Seanad.

The election is taking place on October 26.

Michael D Higgins
Irish President Michael D Higgins has announced his intention to run for another term (Maxwells/PA)

As incumbent, Mr Higgins is able to nominate himself while Sinn Fein has the necessary political strength in the Irish parliament to name its own candidate.

The two biggest parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are both backing Mr Higgins for a second stint, as is the Labour Party.

A range of other would-be independent candidates still retain hope of convincing undeclared councils to back their bids before the September 26 deadline.

The election is taking place on October 26.

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