Wednesday 29 March 2017

Farmer claims 'young Sean' never did own 20-acre plot of Cavan land

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

EMBARRASSING details have emerged which contradict presidential candidate Sean Gallagher's account of his early days in farming.

Mr Gallagher has long claimed that as a 21-year-old he bought a farm of about 20 acres. He has repeated this story several times in interviews throughout his presidential campaign to demonstrate his background as an entrepreneur.

However, the current owner of the land has disputed the candidate's version of events, saying not only was the plot of land never owned by Mr Gallagher but that it was also only eight acres in size. Co Cavan farmer Bernard Sheridan said the previous owner of the property was not Mr Gallagher, but his late father John, from whom he purchased the land for £14,000 in the late 1990s.

"I didn't buy it from young Sean. Young Sean never owned it," said Mr Sheridan.

When confronted with Mr Sheridan's claims, Mr Gallagher did not dispute them.

However, he insisted that even if the farm was bought in his father's name, it was his property.

"Even if John Gallagher's name was on the papers it was Sean Gallagher's farm," a statement issued on Mr Gallagher's behalf said.

"It is not uncommon that a father and son would be involved in the purchase of farm land together."

And he said that he had spoken to the original owner of who he said could recall the candidate's "purchase and transaction".

The statement confirmed that the plot of land was smaller than the 20 acres Mr Gallagher had previously claimed.

Mr Gallagher also deviated from previous accounts he has given of the land purchase last night, saying the farm he bought was over 10 acres and that he had also leased an additional 10 acres elsewhere for dry stock grazing.

During the campaign Mr Gallagher has frequently spoken of how he bought the land at the tender age of 21 and he has mentioned the purchase in a book and on his website.

In the 2008 book 'That'll Never Work', published by Mercier Press, Mr Gallagher wrote: "In 1983, I bought a farm and I was on the way.

Sweat

"But I had no money to buy animals, so what I did was identify a need among old farmers to have sheds and outhouses painted ... instead of charging them money, I would charge them a calf."

He said the experience taught him about "costs, cash flow and -- most of all -- sweat equity".

Locals in Ballyhaise directed the Irish Independent to the land where Mr Gallagher said he reared eight to 10 calves until a car accident that ended his farming career.

The current owner of the land, Bernard Sheridan said that while he wasn't personally one of the farmers who had sheds painted by Mr Gallagher, he knew of others who had.

But he was clear that it was Mr Gallagher's father he had purchased it from.

"I didn't buy it off young Sean, I bought it off the dad. It was his name that was on the papers," said Mr Sheridan.

He said that land had been a plot of about 20 acres but that it had been split, with another local farmer, Brian Reilly, buying 12-13 acres and Mr Gallagher senior buying about eight acres.

He said he purchased the land from John Gallagher in the late 1990s for £14,000.

The Gallagher campaign confirmed this figure, and that the 20 acres had been split, but still maintained that Sean Gallagher was the owner of the farm.

A statement on behalf of Mr Gallagher said it was he who "negotiated the purchase of a small farm outside Ballyhaise, Co Cavan, from Mr Michael Morrow", who "sold his farm of over 20 acres in two lots to Mr Gallagher and Mr Reilly".

It said: "Sean Gallagher purchased the land with the assistance of his late father John" at a cost of £9,900 and said that when the candidate began attending university "his father continued to farm the land for several years".

Irish Independent

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