Waterford TD David Cullinane is leading the search for Sinn Féin's presidential election candidate.
Waterford TD David Cullinane says it’s “exciting” that Sinn Féin is putting forward a candidate for presidency.
Deputy Cullinane will head up a five person committee who will oversee the selection of a Sinn Féin candidate.
He says the committee have to report back to the party’s Ard Chomhairle within ten days, indicating that a candidate should be selected within six weeks.
Despite Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil supporting President Michael D. Higgins’ in his bid for another term in office, Deputy Cullinane says it’s “healthy” to give the people the opportunity to elect the next president of Ireland. “It allows people to have a choice. People under the age of 25 were not able to vote in the last presidential election because they were not old enough and it would unfair on them to have to wait another seven years to vote.
“More importantly, it gives people the opportunity to reflect on the type of society and economy we want, and the type of Ireland we want. Having a presidential election allows candidates and the people to be part of that debate. It's a good thing that there will be a contest now and ultimately the people will have their say, which is the most important thing,” Deputy Cullinane tells Waterford Live.
Deputy Cullinane says young people have influenced the Irish political sphere “massively” over the last seven years, citing their active involvement in the marriage equality referendum and in particular in the recent abortion referendum on the Eighth Amendment. He says it would have been a “mistake” to re-elect President Higgins, despite recognising “that in many ways he has been a very good president”.
Deputy Cullinane feels having a presidential election paves the way for further social and economic change in the next seven years, emphasising that the Sinn Féin candidate will voice the party’s desire to a united Ireland, along with tackling problems with housing and healthcare. “All age groups voted in favour in the abortion referendum, especially young women who came out to have their say, which shows the desire for social change.
"There’s still a load of work to be done in gender equality - we still live in a patriarchal society and unfortunately women are not seen as equals. We see it right across the board, and the demand for real social change in equality in a Republic were citizens rights are delivered will resonate with a lot of people and our candidate will articulate this.
"It would have been a mistake to have the president re-elected without any vote or any opportunity to reflect on how Ireland has advanced in the last seven years and the need to advance further in the next seven years,” he adds.