Presidential hopeful Kevin Sharkey addressing Kilkenny County Council
Five people who want to stand in Ireland’s Presidential election made their case to members of Kilkenny County Council at a special meeting last Friday.
James P Smyth, Kevin Sharkey, Senator Joan Freeman, Gavin Duffy and ‘William Delaney 1957-1970’ all spoke, setting out the main points of their campaigns.
James P Smyth is standing on three key principles - the arts, the homelessness crisis and Article 47/48 of the Constition (citizen initiated referenda). Ireland, he said, has a broken democracy but we can fix it.
Mr Smyth said he was active in the Repeal the Eight and equal marriage referenda, movements he said were “harbingers of us moving forward as a first world republic.”
He said President Michael D Higgins is doing a great job and he would continue that but ‘turbo.’
Kevin Sharkey told the meeting that his public service to the state was speaking out, years ago, about institutional abuse, and being first man in Ireland to say gay rights were human rights. He said he believes he played a part in opening debate and dialogue.
“As president I would talk about integration,” Mr Sharkey said, speaking about racism in Ireland. He remarked that he had sold 10,000 paintings and if he had 'red hair and freckles' he would have had a statue erected to him.
Senator Joan Freeman said she has spent her life campaigning for the mental health of this country. A psychologist and founder of Pieta House, Sen Freeman said: “I am here because I want to lead this country into a better life.”
She said her track record shows she can persuade and influence people and her power to do that would be greater as president.
Sen Freeman said that while she voted ‘no’ in the recent referendum her private convictions would have nothing to do with her private duties.
Gavin Duffy differentiated between the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ powers of the presidency - the ‘hard’ are clearly set out in the constitution and ‘soft’ the influence the president can bring to issues. “I want to offer a more active presidency using those soft powers.”
The five pillars of his campaign will be: Youth; Older people; Diversity and inclusion; starting a ‘conversation about respect’; and Encouraging enterprise.
He said he has already suspended all his business interests and is funding his campaign personally through a loan.
Final speaker Seamus Nolan on behalf of the campaign in the name of ‘William Delaney 1957-1970,’ said his campaign is to highlight the life of a nine year-old Kilkenny boy who died in Letterfrack Industrial school.
His campaign, he said, is run with the highest degree of respect, and it is simply to get William’s name on the ballot and acknowledge him as a person who could have been president.
Kilkenny councillors will not take a decision on who to nominate until after a second special meeting is held to hear from six more candidates, on September 10.
The six candidates who will speak at that meeting will be: Sarah Louise Mulligan, Gemma O'Doherty, Patrick Melly, Peter Casey, John Groarke, and Marie Goretti Moylan.