Irish presidential election, 2004
The Irish presidential election of 2004 was set for 22 October 2004. However, nominations closed at noon on 1 October and the incumbent president
President of Ireland
The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

, Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese
Mary Patricia McAleese served as the eighth President of Ireland from 1997 to 2011. She was the second female president and was first elected in 1997 succeeding Mary Robinson, making McAleese the world's first woman to succeed another as president. She was re-elected unopposed for a second term in...

, who had nominated herself in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution
Constitution of Ireland
The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of the Irish state. The constitution falls broadly within the liberal democratic tradition. It establishes an independent state based on a system of representative democracy and guarantees certain fundamental rights, along with a popularly elected...

, was the only person nominated. Accordingly, she was re-elected for a second seven-year term of office without the need to hold an election. This was the third time a president was returned unopposed, following Seán T. O'Kelly
Sean T. O'Kelly
Seán Thomas O'Kelly was the second President of Ireland . He was a member of Dáil Éireann from 1918 until his election as President. During this time he served as Minister for Local Government and Minister for Finance...

 in 1952, and Patrick Hillery
Patrick Hillery
Patrick John "Paddy" Hillery was an Irish politician and the sixth President of Ireland from 1976 until 1990. First elected at the 1951 general election as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Clare, he remained in Dáil Éireann until 1973...

 in 1983. McAleese was re-inaugurated on 11 November 2004.

Fianna Fáil

The Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil
Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party , more commonly known as Fianna Fáil is a centrist political party in the Republic of Ireland, founded on 23 March 1926. Fianna Fáil's name is traditionally translated into English as Soldiers of Destiny, although a more accurate rendition would be Warriors of Fál...

 party supported its former candidate, Mary McAleese, in her bid for a second term. Technically, however, McAleese nominated herself rather than seek a nomination from Fianna Fáil.

Labour Party

In early 2003, the Labour Party
Labour Party (Ireland)
The Labour Party is a social-democratic political party in the Republic of Ireland. The Labour Party was founded in 1912 in Clonmel, County Tipperary, by James Connolly, James Larkin and William X. O'Brien as the political wing of the Irish Trade Union Congress. Unlike the other main Irish...

 said that the party would run a candidate, irrespective of the attitudes of other parties, and even in the event of the president seeking a second term. But party leader Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte is an Irish Labour Party politician who has been Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources since March 2011...

 appeared less committed during a television interview in November 2003, pointing out that all the party's attentions were focused on the two Irish elections already set for 2004, the European Parliament election
European Parliament election, 2004 (Ireland)
The 2004 European Parliament election in Ireland was the Irish component of the 2004 European Parliament election. The voting was held on Friday, 11 June 2004. The election coincided with the 2004 local elections...

 and the local elections to be held on 11 June 2004. Following the significant losses of the ruling Fianna Fáil party in these elections, Labour Party sources suggested the presidential election should not be contested if it were to allow a decisive Fianna Fáil victory so soon after earlier election woes. Possible candidates were:
  • Former party chairperson and Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht
    Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
    The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is a senior minister at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in the Government of Ireland.The current Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is Frances Fitzgerald, TD.-Overview:...

    , Michael D. Higgins
    Michael D. Higgins
    Michael Daniel Higgins is the ninth and current President of Ireland, having taken office on 11 November 2011 following victory in the 2011 Irish presidential election. Higgins is an Irish politician, poet, sociologist, author and broadcaster. Higgins was President of the Labour Party until his...

  • Former Tánaiste
    The Tánaiste is the deputy prime minister of Ireland. The current Tánaiste is Eamon Gilmore, TD who was appointed on 9 March 2011.- Origins and etymology :...

     (Deputy Prime Minister) Dick Spring
    Dick Spring
    Richard "Dick" Spring is an Irish businessman and former politician. He was first elected as a Labour Party Teachta Dála in 1981 and retained his seat until 2002. He became leader of the Labour Party in 1982, and held this position until 1997...

  • Former leader Ruairi Quinn
    Ruairi Quinn
    Ruairi Quinn is an Irish Labour Party politician who has been Minister for Education and Skills since March 2011. He is currently a Teachta Dála for the Dublin South East constituency. He was Minister for Finance from 1994 to 1997, and leader of the Labour Party from 1997 to 2002.-Early...

  • Independent Senator
    Seanad Éireann
    Seanad Éireann is the upper house of the Oireachtas , which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann . It is commonly called the Seanad or Senate and its members Senators or Seanadóirí . Unlike Dáil Éireann, it is not directly elected but consists of a mixture of members chosen by...

     and gay rights campaigner David Norris
  • Former Social Democratic and Labour Party
    Social Democratic and Labour Party
    The Social Democratic and Labour Party is a social-democratic, Irish nationalist political party in Northern Ireland. Its basic party platform advocates Irish reunification, and the further devolution of powers while Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom...

     minister in Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

     and deputy SDLP leader, Bríd Rodgers
    Bríd Rodgers
    Bríd Rodgers , born Bríd Stratford Bríd Rodgers (Irish: Bríd Mhic Ruairí), born Bríd Stratford Bríd Rodgers (Irish: Bríd Mhic Ruairí), born Bríd Stratford (born 20 February 1935, in Gweedore [Gaoth Dobhair], County Donegal, Ireland, is a former Irish nationalist politician....

On 16 September 2004, the party's parliamentary party recommended not running a candidate. The final decision was taken by the party's executive body, the National Executive, on 17 September 2004. In a surprisingly tight vote, the executive decided against running Higgins by a majority of one, even though the party leader and parliamentary party had come out strongly against running a candidate.

Green Party

Green Party
Green Party (Ireland)
The Green Party is a green political party in Ireland. It was founded as the Ecology Party of Ireland in 1981 by Dublin teacher Christopher Fettes. The party became the Green Alliance in 1983 and in 1987 was renamed to its current title in English...

Teachta Dála
A Teachta Dála , usually abbreviated as TD in English, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas . It is the equivalent of terms such as "Member of Parliament" or "deputy" used in other states. The official translation of the term is "Deputy to the Dáil", though a more literal...

 Eamon Ryan
Eamon Ryan
Eamon Ryan is an Irish politician and leader of the Irish Green Party. He was a Teachta Dála for the Dublin South constituency from 2002 to 2011, and served as Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources from 2007 to 2011....

 let it be known that he was interested in seeking a nomination to run. However, practical difficulties included a lack of support from non-Green Party parliamentarians (fourteen of whom would be needed to nominate, as well as the six Green Party TDs), Mary McAleese's personal popularity, and funding issues. Having been endorsed by the party leadership, Ryan subsequently withdrew his name before a meeting of the Green Party National Council and the Green Party ultimately did not run a candidate.


Independent TDs or Senators could have nominated an independent candidate, although they would have had difficulty securing the support of the necessary 20 TDs or senators. Possible candidates included:
  • Senator David Norris – who did not receive a Labour Party nomination
  • Kevin Lee – Former emigrant who had a campaign and contacted local councillors
  • Vincent Salafia
    Vincent Salafia
    Vincent Salafia is a noted Irish-born lawyer and environmentalist. Salafia was involved in a legal challenge against Mr.Dick Roche, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government over the M3 Motorway at Tara in 2006.- Brehon Law Project :...

     – Environmental activist and anti-motorway campaigner
  • Dana Rosemary Scallon
    Dana Rosemary Scallon
    Dana Rosemary Scallon , known in her singing career simply as Dana, is an Irish singer and former Member of the European Parliament ....

     – Family rights campaigner, candidate in 1997, and former MEP
  • Mary Robinson
    Mary Robinson
    Mary Therese Winifred Robinson served as the seventh, and first female, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002. She first rose to prominence as an academic, barrister, campaigner and member of the Irish Senate...

     (President: 1990–97) – Former presidents who have not served two terms may nominate themselves for election at any stage.

Independent candidacy

Following her defeat in the European Parliament election of June 2004
European Parliament election, 2004 (Ireland)
The 2004 European Parliament election in Ireland was the Irish component of the 2004 European Parliament election. The voting was held on Friday, 11 June 2004. The election coincided with the 2004 local elections...

, 1997 presidential election
Irish presidential election, 1997

 candidate Dana Rosemary Scallon said that she might run as an independent candidate on a platform of opposition to the adoption of the proposed European Union constitution
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

. She initially attempted to repeat her 1997 strategy of seeking nominations from four county councils, and approached all the county councils in the country, but was rebuffed. Shortly before the close of nominations, she turned her attention to attempting to obtain nomination by 20 members of the Oireachtas
The Oireachtas , sometimes referred to as Oireachtas Éireann, is the "national parliament" or legislature of Ireland. The Oireachtas consists of:*The President of Ireland*The two Houses of the Oireachtas :**Dáil Éireann...

, but was similarly unsuccessful.

History of electoral contests

The electoral wins in contested presidential polls are as follows
  • Fianna Fáil: 1945, 1959, 1966, 1973, 1997
  • Fine Gael: none
  • Independent supported by Labour: 1990

Only one contest has taken place involving an incumbent president. In the 1966 presidential election
Irish presidential election, 1966
The Irish presidential election of 1966 was held on 1 June 1966. The outgoing president Éamon de Valera reluctantly agreed under Fianna Fáil party pressure to seek a second term. Fine Gael decided to run one of its younger TDs, Tom O'Higgins against him. In an astonishing upset, O'Higgins came...

 President Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

 defeated Fine Gael's Tom O'Higgins
Tom O'Higgins
Thomas Francis O'Higgins was an Irish Fine Gael politician, a barrister and a judge.Tom O'Higgins was born in Cork in 1916. He was the son of Thomas F. O'Higgins and the nephew of Kevin O'Higgins...

 by less than one percent.

Criticism of the election

In the event of a public vote, it is likely that some of the public would have voted against the incumbent, although it is unknown how much support would have remained for McAleese, as this would have depended on what other candidates were presented. For those who desired a public vote, the main culprits in defeating efforts to nominate other candidates were the main political parties, who blocked any support from county councils. In particular, Fine Gael's alliance with Fianna Fáil was instrumental in blocking candidates such as Dana Rosemary Scallon. Critics of the system argue that this "agreed election" called into question the need for a supposedly non-political office where only politicians can nominate a candidate, with few powers, that is detached from the people, and to which elections take place only every 14 years.


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