2011 irish presidential election

Irish presidential election, 2011

Irish presidential election, 2011
Republic of Ireland
27 October 2011

President before election

Mary McAleese

Elected President


Republic of Ireland
Coat of arms of Ireland

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The next Irish presidential election is due to take place on Thursday, 27 October 2011, unless the incumbent President of Ireland, Mary McAleese vacates the office prematurely. Three constitutional referendums will take place on the same day.


To qualify, candidates must:

Method and date of election

Presidential elections are conducted under the Presidential Elections Act 1993, as amended. Constitutionally, the election must be held not more than 60 days before the ending of the term of office of the incumbent, or within 60 days of the office becoming vacant. The exact date will be fixed by an order made by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The election order will declare the last day on which nominations may be received. If a member of the Oireachtas or a county or city council nominate more than one candidate, only the first nomination paper received from them will be deemed valid.

In the event that more than one candidate is nominated, the election will be conducted by instant-runoff voting. Although the constitution calls the system "proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote", a single-winner election cannot be proportional. The election does, however, use the ranked choice ballot that is also used in elections to Ireland's parliament by proportional representation. All Irish citizens entered on the current electoral register will be eligible to vote. If there is only a single candidate they will be deemed elected without a poll.


Since the general election in February 2011, and the election of the Members of the 24th Seanad, only three political parties currently have the minimum 20 members of Oireachtas to nominate a candidate: Fine Gael (76 TDs and 19 senators), the Labour Party (37 TDs and 13 senators) and Fianna Fáil (19 TDs and 14 senators). Sinn Féin, the next largest party in the Dáil Éireann, have 14 TDs and 3 senators. For other candidates to be nominated, support from members of smaller parties, independents (of which there are currently 14 TDs and 11 senators) or excess members of the three larger parties would be needed, or the support of four local authorities.

Prospective candidates

As of 11 August 2011, the following candidates have been selected by their parties as the candidates they intend to nominate:

Nomination campaign

Fine Gael

Gay Mitchell, MEP for the Dublin constituency and former TD for Dublin South Central was chosen as the Fine Gael candidate at a special convention held on 9 July 2011. He announced that he would be seeking the party's nomination in June 2011, having been contacted by "a large number of senior figures in the party". Voting was by secret ballot, with an electoral college consisting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party (TDs, Senators and MEPs) with 70% of the vote, county and city councillors (20%) and the twelve-member executive council (10%).

Three others sought the nomination:

In March 2011, Fine Gael produced a shortlist of three candidates: John Bruton, Seán Kelly and Mairead McGuinness. Bruton, a former Taoiseach and European Union Ambassador, ruled himself out of the contest on 28 May 2011. Kelly, an MEP and former President of the Gaelic Athletic Association indicated on 1 June 2011 that he would not be seeking the party's nomination, and wished to continue serving in the European Parliament. The party approached Nobel laureate poet Seamus Heaney in late 2010, but Heaney declined to stand unless he was an agreed cross-party candidate.

On the announcement that Mitchell had won the nomination, the Irish Independent stated that Kenny was seen to slump and "could barely contain his disappointment." When questioned by a journalist on his apparent disappointment, Kenny responded sharply "Am I supposed to be going around grinning like a Cheshire Cat at everything?"

Labour Party

The Labour Party candidate is Michael D. Higgins. He was chosen jointly by the party's National Executive and the Labour Parliamentary Party at a special convention on 19 June 2011.

The former TD and Minister, and current Labour Party president, originally indicated that he was interested in receiving the party's nomination in September 2010. Like Higgins, two other candidates put their names forward in late May 2011:

Fianna Fáil

As of 11 August 2011, Fianna Fáil have not made a decision on whether to nominate a candidate. Press reports have indicated that the party is unlikely to run a candidate, largely for financial reasons. On 23 June Martin indicated that no decision on the party's "position in relation" to the election was likely before late August or early September. A six-person committee appointed by him is due to convene in early September to make a decision on whether to put forward a candidate. Martin has indicated that the party's councillors are free to support the nomination of independent candidates. The party whip was applied to the Fianna Fáil group on Clare County Council to support the candidacy of Seán Gallagher on 20 June.

The following party members have expressed an interest in the presidency:

In early August 2011 there was press speculation that RTÉ broadcaster Gay Byrne might seek a nomination. On 6 August Micheál Martin rang Byrne at his holiday home to indicate that Fianna Fáil Oireachtas members would facilitate his nomination. Byrne indicated that he had yet to make a decision on whether to put his name forward, but said that if he did so he would not run under the Fianna Fáil banner but as an independent, albeit with the assistance of the party's organisation. "Fianna Fáil are convinced no matter who they put up will be unelectable, so they're giving me their support" he told the Irish Independent. Éamon Ó Cuív, the party's deputy leader and member of the committee tasked with deciding on their strategy for the election stated that "I know of no approach to Gay Byrne... Nobody has discussed the issue with me - good, bad or indifferent."

Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin does not have a sufficient number of Oireachtas members to nominate a candidate on its own. At the party's Ard Comhairle meeting in Dublin in June 2011, the party's leader, Gerry Adams TD, ruled himself out as a candidate. He had previously expressed a wish to be elected president in time for the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016. An announcement on whether the party would put forward a candidate was expected on 2 July, but Adams simply stated that the party wanted to "participate" in the election, and were "not rushing the decision-making process". Later in the month it was reported in that artist Robert Ballagh was "seriously considering a run for the presidency", and had been in talks with Sinn Féin, the Socialist Party and People Before Profit Alliance about obtaining the nominations of 20 Oireachtas members. A Sinn Féin source confirmed there had been "very informal discussions" and that Ballagh's nomination was "a possibility" but "very loose at this stage". However, on 25 July Ballagh ruled out running in the election, saying that he had never considered being a candidate. His discussions with the parties had been about the election "in general" and he had no ambitions to run for political office. In the absence of a Sinn Féin candidate being nominated it is anticipated that the party's Oireachtas members would support an independent candidate either en bloc or by free vote.


In order to secure a nomination, a number of non-party politicians have sought the support of either 20 members of the Oireachtas or four city or county councils.

Failed Oireachtas nominations

Seven independent politicians have sought support for their nominations from local authorities, and three have received the endorsement of one or more councils.

The following candidates have received endorsements from local authorities. In each case, it is a statement of intention to support the nomination. A further motion will be necessary to make a formal nomination once the ministerial order for the election is made.

The council indicated support for Davis, but did not put the issue to a vote.
While the Fianna Fáil councillors at Longford claimed thay had passed a resolution supporting his candidacy, the Fine Gael group disputed this, saying it had not been voted on.

A feature of the process is that Fine Gael councillors have been instructed not to support any of the independent applicants. In some cases, the party's councillors have voted against motions supporting candidates and in others they have abstained, allowing the vote to be carried.


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