LEO VARADKAR has asked the rank-and-file of Fine Gael if they want to run a candidate for the Aras.

The Taoiseach has yet to say if he will back anyone in the race for the Office of President.

But we have learned he has now written to party members asking them for their thoughts on the issue.

This is the first sign that the Fine Gael leadership is seriously weighing up a bid for the Park.

A survey is being conducted by market research firm CST International on behalf of their HQ, we can reveal.

Among the questions is one asking the faithful to rate how important it is that “Fine Gael runs a candidate in the next presidential election”.

Sources say Mr Varadkar would prefer to see the current President Michael D Higgins elected unopposed – to save their financial war chest for the upcoming local, European and general election battles.

But it is now increasingly likely that there will be a contest.

This is the first sign that the Fine Gael leadership is seriously weighing up a bid for the Park.

A survey is being conducted by market research firm CST International on behalf of their HQ, we can reveal.

Among the questions is one asking the faithful to rate how important it is that “Fine Gael runs a candidate in the next presidential election”.

Sources say Mr Varadkar would prefer to see the current President Michael D Higgins elected unopposed – to save their financial war chest for the upcoming local, European and general election battles.

But it is now increasingly likely that there will be a contest.

But we have learned he has now written to party members asking them for their thoughts on the issue.

This is the first sign that the Fine Gael leadership is seriously weighing up a bid for the Park.

A survey is being conducted by market research firm CST International on behalf of their HQ, we can reveal.

Among the questions is one asking the faithful to rate how important it is that “Fine Gael runs a candidate in the next presidential election”.

Sources say Mr Varadkar would prefer to see the current President Michael D Higgins elected unopposed – to save their financial war chest for the upcoming local, European and general election battles.

But it is now increasingly likely that there will be a contest.

Leo 2

This is because Senator Gerard Craughwell is intent on securing a nomination to take on the incumbent, who himself has yet to declare whether he wants a second stint in the Aras.

Sinn Fein are also weighing up entering the race with TD Mary Lou McDonald saying: “Uachtarain na hEireann should be directly elected through the electoral process. In terms of us fielding a candidate, it is something we are considering”.

Fine Gael could end up choosing Ireland MEP Sean Kelly to run after he flagged his interest in the job.

The former GAA chief told the Irish Sun: “It is the members that keep the party going and the more they are consulted on issues the better chance you are going to have of making the right decisions.

“If Michael D decides to run again, the party will be reluctant and it is more to do with the cost and organisation as opposed to anything else. Because you have a referendum, European and local elections all coming up.

“But if Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail enter the race, then a lot of Fine Gael people will feel they, too, should have a candidate.

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“If the party want to run a candidate, and they ask me to consider it, then I would be honoured to be considered and I would have a look at it and see then.”

The questionnaire’s results are also going to be used to plot Fine Gael’s strategy for the next general election fight, we understand.

The survey tells members: “We are also interested in you using your political judgement in looking at what you believe to be important in swaying public opinion.”

Among the questions is one asking members how important is it that “there should be tougher sentences for convicted criminals”.

Hinting at a possible relaxation in drug laws, they are also asked to say how strongly they agree or disagree that “cannabis should be allowed for medicinal purposes”.

The party’s members are also asked for their opinion on whether the “promotion of low-cost alcohol should be subject to more stringent controls” as well as on how strongly they agree that “steps be taken to enhance children safety online”.

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Article courtesy of  :  By Kieran Dineen, Public Affairs Correspondent. The Irish Sun.

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