PRESIDENTIAL frontrunner Sean Gallagher charged GAA clubs in his home county of Louth as much as €5,000 to help out with applications for sports grants, the Irish Independent has learned.
Mr Gallagher charged the fees for as little as 20 hours' work in order to help the clubs get funding from state agencies, such as the National Lottery, when Fianna Fail led-governments had enough money to hand out the cash.
Local sources last night told the Irish Independent: "He was inside with Fianna Fail and the ministers and (he had) the inside track, he had been (Dr Rory) O'Hanlon's secretary. Once you got him to do it, you were going to get the grant.
"We weren't going to him looking for ham sandwiches, you know. There was unspoken word."
Mr Gallagher charged the fees to clubs seeking to expand around 2002, near the time he was setting up his 'Smarthomes' business.
The 'Dragon's Den' star is understood to have carried out the work for two Louth clubs, St Pat's in Dundalk and Cooley Kickhams. Mr Gallagher is originally from Ballyhaise in Co Cavan but now lives in Blackrock, just outside Dundalk.
The revelation could prove damaging to Mr Gallagher, especially since he has staked so much of his presidential pitch on his background with community and voluntary groups, which don't operate for profit.
It could also anger rank-and-file GAA members who fundraise for their clubs up and down the country. GAA clubs usually get members to carry out such work for free, but occasionally enlist outside help.
A source in Cooley Kickhams last night said Mr Gallagher charged around €5,000 for helping them with a pitch they made to get a grant to help them with their development. The grant from the National Lottery eventually came to around €200,000, for a development of around €1.5m.
"He did some consultancy work for us, yeah. We had to make our presentation and he helped us along with it. There was some fee on it, it would be something about €5,000.
"He did put in a good few hours, it wasn't just a light-fingered touch. I'm sure he would have done 20 hours, maybe 25.
"We knew he could deliver. Because of his expertise, because he knew how the departments worked, he knew the people inside there. He was on the inside track."
Mr Gallagher touched on the consulting business he offered local clubs in the 2008 book 'That'll Never Work', published by Mercier Press, but he did not say how much he charged.
"I moonlighted in the evenings, writing grant forms for local football clubs to get them lottery funding or other funding for their sports halls and facilities," he said when writing about the time he set up Smarthomes.
Mr Gallagher's spokesman did not reply to queries on the issue last night.
Meanwhile, Mr Gallagher also received more than €3,000 from public funds for giving a motivational speech that lasted under an hour.
Mr Gallagher was paid €3,025 by West Limerick Resources (WLR) after they booked him to be the key speaker at an enterprise event in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, on October 19, 2010.
Board members of WLR last night said Mr Gallagher was paid too much and said they would not have agreed to it had they known how much he was going to charge.
Mr Gallagher's spokesman said the fee was agreed with WLR beforehand.