The colourful pasts of Irish presidential hopefuls

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The colourful pasts of Irish presidential hopefuls

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Ireland’s presidential battle has sprung into life with an array of colourful candidates – and controversies surrounding a senator and gay rights campaigner, and a former IRA commander.

With another of the runners and riders an ex Eurovision winner, the largely ceremonial post is attracting more attention than usual.

Dana Rosemary Scallon, better known simply as Dana, won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970. Her campaign stresses Christian family values.

The frontrunner David Norris played a central role in Ireland’s decriminalisation of homosexuality.

But his past defence of a former partner convicted in Israel of having sex with a 15-year-old boy has caused controversy.

Another leading candidate, Michael Higgins, is a former Labour minister. He is one bookmaker’s favourite to win the ballot in late October.

Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness is a former Northern Ireland deputy first minister. He played a key role in ending the IRA’s 30-year campaign of violence.

But there has been debate over his past: he is widely thought to have been a senior commander in the organisation. A recent poll put McGuinness in third place behind Norris and Higgins.

The vote to elect Ireland’s president takes place on October 27.