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Wednesday, October 29, 1997 Published at 18:13 GMT

World: Europe

Adi Roche - the early favourite

Adi Roche the early favourite

Adi Roche was the odds-on favourite when the nominations closed for the Irish presidency in September but within weeks she had been overtaken in the polls. The Labour candidate now ranks among the outsiders.

A long-time environmental campaigner, who chose not to have children because she had spent so much time in contaminated areas of Ukraine working with children suffering from the after effects of the Chernobyl accident, Mrs Roche was seen as the ideal 'people's president'.

Mrs Roche sees herself as an apolitical candidate and hopes to unite voters on a ticket of "peace, harmony and co-existence".

Born in Clonmel, County Tipperary in 1955, the youngest of four children, she worked in the sales and public relations department's of Ireland's national carrier Aer Lingus between 1975 and 1982, when she took voluntary redundancy in order to dedicate her time to the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The nuclear arms race was at its height and Mrs Roche devised a special anti-nuclear programme and ran peace education classes in more than 50 schools.

In 1990 she began the Chernobyl Children's Project after reading of the plight of the youngsters suffering the effects of radiation years after the nuclear power station accident. She made a documentary, 'Black Wind, White Land', which highlighted the issue and the following year was awarded the European Woman Laureate Award and was crowned the Republic's Person of the Year.

Mrs Roche addressed a Unesco conference on the subject and in 1994 led a convoy of trucks - the first of many - taking medicines and fresh produce to the affected area of the Ukraine.

She later raised money and arranged for 1,200 Chernobyl children to come to Ireland, Britain and America for holidays. Many of the projects she set up are still offering respite from the effects of radiation 11 years after the disaster .

In one of the few election pledges by any of the candidates -- with the position being largely ceremonial politics are rarely discussed during the campaign -- she has promised to host a global summit of 'peacemakers and humanitarians' in Ireland in 1999.

She says: "The purpose of the summit would be to help articulate a vision for humanity; to provide a reference point for the building of a world where our inter-dependence as the family of humankind is nurtured and revitalised."

Mrs Roche, 42, is married to music teacher Sean Dunne.

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