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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 September, 2004, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
Race on for Irish presidency
They are not exactly queuing up for the job.

It looks like it could be a one-horse race for the presidency of Ireland - and it is a Belfast woman who could be first to the finish.

Mary McAleese could be president for a second term

Current Irish President Mary McAleese has nominated herself for a second seven-year term.

Under the Republic of Ireland's constitution, a sitting president can do just that.

Elected in 1997 as the eighth president of Ireland, the Queen's University graduate has an approval rating of more than 80%.

Announcing her decision to run again on Tuesday, she said: "These past seven years have been personally deeply fulfilling and, after consultation with my family, I have decided to seek election for a second term.

"It is my desire and ambition to serve my country and serve it well for a further term as president."

The Northern Ireland woman had the support of both Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats when she first ran for office.

At this stage it's looking very likely that President McAleese will be returned unopposed
Shane Harrison
BBC Dublin correspondent

And with Fine Gael and Labour reluctant to oppose Mrs McAleese, it is possible she could be returned without an election.

To secure a nomination for next month's poll, any rival to Mrs McAleese would need the support of four councils or the backing of 20 members of the Oireachtas/Irish Parliament.

The former MEP and Eurovision winner Dana - Rosemary Scallon - and the Green Party TD Eamon Ryan have both indicated that they would like to stand.

But BBC Northern Ireland Dublin correspondent Shane Harrison believes at the moment "the numbers appear stacked against them".

Dana is hoping to secure a nomination
Dana is hoping to secure a nomination
Dana is writing to every county council in the country to ask if they would support her nomination.

However, on Monday, Dana received a setback when two councils - Mayo and Sligo - failed to nominate her.

According to Shane Harrison, Dana believes the political establishment does not favour a race this time around.

He said her argument was based on the fact that Mayo County Council said they could not discuss her request for their backing.

By-elections under way

But, he said, under the republic's constitution, candidates needed to give 60 days notice for the wheels to be put in motion for the poll, and as the presidential inauguration is on 11 November, that date had expired.

Shane Harrison said: "Dana's argument doesn't hold any water.

"If she was in any way serious about standing for the presidency, she should have let her intentions be known much earlier than she has. She's a bit of a 'Johnny come lately'."

The Green Party has announced it is to seek a nomination for its Dublin South TD, Eamon Ryan.

However, it also needs to gather 20 members of the Irish Parliament to support his nomination.

Shane Harrison said: "His Green Party only has six TDs. Where they are going to get the other 14 remains to be seen, and most people think it's very unlikely.

"At this stage, it's looking very likely that President McAleese will be returned unopposed."

Elsewhere, the Labour Parliamentary Party has decided not to put up a candidate.

Instead, it has opted to concentrate its efforts in the coming months on fighting two by-elections in Meath and Kildare.

BBC NI's Shane Harrison:
"The Northern Ireland woman had the support of both Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats"

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