Gallagher boasts of his FF links with Haughey
- Letter reveals key roles in party
- New poll gives him huge lead
INDEPENDENT presidential candidate Sean Gallagher boasted of his lengthy service with Charlie Haughey in an explosive letter which reveals the full extent of his Fianna Fail past.
The revelation comes as he races into a commanding lead in the latest opinion poll, which puts him 15 points ahead of Labour's Michael D Higgins -- and on course to become president.
In a begging letter sent two years ago to Fianna Fail members in Louth, Mr Gallagher:
• Talked about how he spent two years working with Charlie Haughey when he was on the Fianna Fail national executive 26 years ago.
• Described how he worked full time in party headquarters to raise "much needed funds" for Fianna Fail.
• Highlighted his long record of involvement and commitment to Fianna Fail "over the past 30 years".
Mr Gallagher sent the letter in January 2009 to the heads of Fianna Fail cumainn (branches) in Louth when he was seeking their support to get back on to the party's national executive.
However, his Fianna Fail links have not prevented him from becoming the front-runner in the presidential race with just three days of campaigning to go.
'The Irish Times' poll today shows he is up 20 points from its last poll at the start of the month to 40pc. Michael D Higgins is the only candidate in a position to stop Mr Gallagher from getting elected but he is trailing at just 25pc. The results are broadly in line with two other opinion polls. 'The Sunday Business' Post/Red C poll put Mr Gallagher at 40pc and Mr Higgins at 26pc. 'The Sunday Times'/Behaviour and Attitudes Poll put Mr Gallagher at 38pc and Mr Higgins at 26pc.
Mr Higgins himself attacked Mr Gallagher yesterday by hitting out at his business record -- and pointing to his own career.
"We stand for a different version of Ireland. My record is that I turned into practical realities -- I founded a TV station; I re-funded the film industry; I built these canals; Chester Beatty Library; Collins Barracks; the folk museum in Mayo; 17 theatres. That's real. You don't have to go searching in the Companies Office to find that," he shouted.
But he and his Labour Party campaign team know that time is running out to close in on Mr Gallagher -- and that tonight's final televised presidential debate on RTE's 'Frontline' will be one of the last opportunities to make an impression.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael yesterday attempted to bolster the position of Mr Higgins in the presidential election by signalling to supporters to help the Labour Party candidate. Transport Minister Leo Varadkar became the first senior Fine Gael figure to directly appeal for party supporters to transfer their votes to Mr Higgins.
'The Irish Times' poll shows that Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness remains in third place in the race but is down by four points to 15pc. Senator David Norris is down three points to 8pc and Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell has continued to lose support, with a three-point drop to 6pc. Although Mr Mitchell insisted yesterday that he could still win, there was increasing acceptance in Fine Gael that the best he could possibly hope for was a third-place finish ahead of Mr McGuinness
Independent Mary Davis has suffered an even bigger drop, down by nine points to 3pc and Dana Rosemary Scallon is unchanged on 3pc.
During his campaign, Mr Gallagher has consistently played down his role on the Fianna Fail national executive between 2009-2011, saying it was only responsible for organising the party and not policy. But in his own letter two years ago, he portrayed the body he was trying to get elected to as far more powerful.
"As the Governing Body of the Party, the role of the National Executive is increasingly important during these challenging times for the Country, and indeed for the Party itself," he wrote in his plea for votes.
Mr Gallagher also used his service alongside Charlie Haughey as another selling point. At that stage, the full extent of Haughey's corruption had been in the public domain for several years, with the Moriarty Tribunal finding that he had "devalued democracy" by accepting IR£8m from business people during his career and performing political favours for them in return.
And Mr Gallagher's admission in the letter that he raised funds for Fianna Fail comes just days after he admitted that he invited guests to a secret corporate fundraiser for the party in 2008 -- but denied that he had asked them for money
Mr Gallagher received a warm welcome yesterday while canvassing in wet weather in Longford. He said that the reaction of the public showed that they had no appetite for the negative campaigning that had been a mark of the campaign.