Women to vie for Irish presidency

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Ireland now faces an intriguing all-woman contest for its presidency after Fianna Fail (FF), its largest party, sprang a surprise by choosing academic Mary McAleese (right) ahead of former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds as their candidate.

Anti-Reynolds ranks were swelled by fears that, if he won, a subsequent Dail by-election defeat could spark a general election with the Fianna Fail-led government possibly losing power. Some 35 FF Dail and Senate members were newly elected this year.

Mrs McAleese, not currently a member, came from behind, winning the second round by 62 votes to 48. Former European Commissioner Michael O'Kennedy came third; 15 O'Kennedy votes defected after carefully planted rumours that he had pulled out. He denied this, but summoned only 21 of the 37 votes earlier pledged.

Ms McAleese, 47, an unsuccessful FF candidate in the 1987 Irish general election, offered a vision that addressed an Ireland where "people are not easily pigeon-holed". She promised to continue Mary Robinson's "caring, outreach" role.