Avril insists she'll bring 'a different basket of talents'

ANNE MARIE O'CONNOR

AVRIL DOYLE may have wound down her public life in recent years but she hasn't earmarked Aras An Uachtarain as a retirement home.

On the contrary, the former MEP and Senator hinted yesterday (Tuesday) that she sees herself as a serious contender for the Fine Gael Presidential nomination and believes she's the candidate who will bring 'a different basket of talents' to the table.

She disputes charges put to her that she ever retired from public life, and rejects the notion that the Presidency is a retirement plan of sorts.

'I retired from EU politics two years ago for family reasons. I wanted to be based in Ireland. But I've been active ever since I've come back,' she said.

Her contribution to climate change legislation in the EU Parliament still brings her on bi-monthly trips to Brussels, where she now advises the private sector on reducing carbon emissions.

Having previously gone head to head with her 'old friend' Mary Banotti for the FG nomination in 1997, the notion of becoming President is not a recent fancy of the Crossabeg-based politician.

This time out she wouldn't have dreamed of running for the FG nomination if her other old friend former Taoiseach John Bruton had chosen to stand.

'I was asked a while ago if I'd put my name forward and I said no at the time. I thought at the time that John Bruton was the candidate of choice and when he was still a possibility I would not put my name in the hat,' she said.

Avril now goes head to head with Pat Cox, Mairead McGuinness and Gay Mitchell for the Fine Gael candidacy. She won't speak ill of the other three, and will back any one of them if she doesn't get approval herself from the FG electoral college.

'I'm up against three excellent candidates,' she said, stressing however that she brings something 'different'.

She says as President she could subtly set the national agenda through dialogue but without being politician and breaching the prescribed constitutional role of President.

She believes she has a lot to bring to the table. As co-founder of the Chic shop in Wexford she says she has a ' background in small business', she also has science background, and has an agricultural pedigree.

If she got to the Aras she'd speak out about social justice, she says and would put mental health issues as a priority on the political agenda.

She believes she can attract enough support from the electoral college of FG to get the nomination.

She thinks she'll be the one to attract votes, especially crucial second preferences.

'I've been around a while, and hopefully I will attract transfers,' she said.

Being from Dublin she also thinks that she will appeal both in urban and rural areas. She's also shown she is a capable performer at local, national and European level.

She believes she has a very strong chance of winning the nomination from her Fine Gael colleagues. In fact there is an air of quiet confidence from her.

'I wouldn't have put my name forward if I thought I had no chance of winning,' she said.

To get the nomination she will need 70% support of the parliamentary party, plus support from FG Councillors and members of the National Executive.

She's delighted that her fellow Wexford colleagues have given her their support.

' The support I have received from Dr. Liam Twomey, Michael D'Arcy and Paul Kehoe has been invaluable,' she said.

Avril doesn't believe that Fine Gael will ' tear itself apart' before the Presidential election actually arrives. Suggestions that it will are merely 'fodder for the media'.

If rivals Gay Mitchell, Mairead McGuinness or Pat Cox garner more support she'll still put the party first.

' There are four excellent candidates and I will support whoever the party chooses. I will be fully behind them.'

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