McGuinness not worried by Cox

ARDEE’s Mairead McGuinness will have a real fight on her hands if Pat Cox tries to get the Fine Gael Presidential nomination.

ARDEE’s Mairead McGuinness will have a real fight on her hands if Pat Cox tries to get the Fine Gael Presidential nomination.

McGuinness has vowed to fight for the party’s presidential nomination, but there are rumours that the party leadership is getting ready to back Cox.

He is a former Progressive Democrat and has served three terms as an MEP for Munster, first with the PDs and later as an independent. In 2002, he was elected president of the European Parliament.

Cox was expected last week to apply for membership of the Fine Gael party.

Senior party figures confirmed that party headquarters and a significant number of Tds were privately giving their support for Cox.

But McGuinness is determined to contest the nomination and said she had no problem with with Mr Cox joining the party.

“I will be appealing directly to the membership who are the grassroots of the party,” she said.

“Our candidate needs to be up and running as soon as possible. People want to talk to a candidate, not a potential candidate.”

Meanwhile, US-based Irish journalist and publisher Niall O’Dowd has promised to be “the best travelling salesman Ireland ever had” if elected as president.

Mr O’Dowd said he planned to declare as soon as a “significant number of people” provided assurances of their support.

He said a group of people had approached him to during the recent visit to Ireland of US president Barack Obama. They felt he could have a contribution to make and there was support for an independent candidate who would deal with the Irish worldwide.

Fine Gael Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd said his brother was a “shining light” with a lifelong record of caring for the diaspora and would make a “fantastic president”.

He said he would be delighted if his brother was to be a Fine Gael candidate.

The candidate selection is due to take place either at the end of the month or in early July. It will be based on Fine Gael’s new electoral college system, in which the parliamentary party has 70 per cent of the vote, councillors have 20 per cent and the national executive has the remaining 10 per cent.