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The Irish presidential election of 1997 was held on 30 October 1997. It was the eleventh presidential election to be held in Ireland, and only the sixth to be contested by more than one candidate. It was held ahead of schedule when incumbent Mary Robinson resigned to assume her new appointment as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Minister for the Environment and Local Government Noel Dempsey made the order opening nominations on 15 September, with 30 September as the deadline for nominations. Five people received nominations, the highest number contesting to that point, and more remarkably, four of the five were women.
Mary McAleese was the candidate of the Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats parties for the presidency. Born in Belfast, she was formerly a journalist with broadcaster, RTÉ, and at the time of her nomination, she was Pro-Vice Chancellor of Queens University Belfast. Although an activist with Fianna Fáil for many years, she was thought to be unlikely to receive the party's nomination. Two other candidates, Albert Reynolds and Michael O'Kennedy, also sought the party's nomination. Reynolds was a former Taoiseach while O'Kennedy was a former cabinet minister having served in the Finance and Foreign Affairs portfolios. Both were also sitting TDs which was seen as an advantage. In the first round of voting, Reynolds received 49 votes, McAleese 42, and O'Kennedy 21. In the second round, McAleese won, with 62 votes to Reynolds's 48.
Mary Banotti was the choice of the Fine Gael party to represent them in the election. She was the grand-niece of the former Irish leader, Michael Collins, and sister of the deputy leader of the party, Nora Owen. She defeated colleague Avril Doyle for the party nomination in a very close contest. Banotti, who was an MEP at the time, was the only practising politician among the five presidential candidates.
Dana Rosemary Scallon received the nominations of five county councils. While this was a constitutionally legitimate means of gaining nomination to compete for the presidency, it was the first time it had been tried successfully. In the 1945 presidential election, Patrick McCartan tried this approach unsuccessfully.
Derek Nally was the fifth candidate to join the presidential race and the only male candidate. He was a retired Garda and victims' rights campaigner, and he received the nominations of five county councils, like Scallon.
|Irish presidential election, 1997|
|Party||Candidate||Nominated by||% 1st Pref||Count 1||Count 2|
|Fianna Fáil||Mary McAleese||Oireachtas: Fianna Fáil, Progressive Democrats||45.2||574,424||706,259|
|Fine Gael||Mary Banotti||Oireachtas: Fine Gael||29.3||372,002||497,516|
|Independent||Dana Rosemary Scallon||County and City Councils||13.8||175,458|
|Independent||Adi Roche||Oireachtas: Labour Party, Democratic Left and Green Party||6.9||88,423|
|Independent||Derek Nally||County and City Councils||4.7||59,529|
|Electorate: 2,688,316 Valid: 1,269,836 Spoilt: 9,852 (0.7%) Quota: 634,919 Turnout: 47.6%|