Gallagher continues denials as fuel smuggler sticks to claims
Published 27/10/2011 | 05:00
The convicted fuel smuggler whom Independent candidate Sean Gallagher invited to a €5,000-a-head Fianna Fail fundraiser last night stood by his claim that the presidential hopeful personally collected the cheque.
Mr Gallagher again insisted he did not collect the cheque. He said the fundraiser was "no different from anybody who stands at a church gate collection or anybody who sells tickets or holds fundraising events".
After days of controversy over his role in the Fianna Fail fundraiser and his contacts with businessman Hugh Morgan, he said he had got his campaign back on track.
"Everybody is doing the very best they can on the ground and it's very much up to the people now," he said while campaigning in Co Cavan.
"We put in a good campaign, a very clean campaign, and a bit of distraction this week with negativity but we're back on track today. There is no issue to be addressed. I stand over everything I've done," he added.
Mr Morgan provided the photograph taken with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen at the fundraiser, which he says Mr Gallagher delivered to him.
The owner of Morgan Fuels in Armagh also released copies of the stub for the €5,000 cheque stub made out to Fianna Fail and diary entries for the period.
Mr Gallagher repeated his denials for a second time that he had picked up the donation in person in June 2008 from the Armagh headquarters of Morgan Fuels.
"I apologise for any confusion. I wasn't sure whether, could he have given me a cheque to pass on to Fianna Fail, it wouldn't be a standard practice and I was unclear as to whether or not he gave me something," he said on LMFM radio.
Mr Morgan says Mr Gallagher phoned him twice and visited his premises twice -- once to collect the cheque and the second time to deliver the photograph.
"He advised me that this type of fundraising would replace the annual Galway Tent Fundraiser. In return for the €5,000 donation I was promised a private audience with the Taoiseach and I would get a photograph taken with him.
"He told me that the Taoiseach would give an update on the economy in the South, which in his words was 'beginning to wobble'," he said.
"Brian Cowen gave a speech on the economy and predicted a soft landing. At the end of the night Sean Gallagher introduced me to Brian Cowen and facilitated a photograph to be taken of myself with him," he said.
Mr Gallagher denied he was a senior fundraiser for Fianna Fail.
"That is not the case but Fianna Fail did organise an event in the Crowne Plaza organised by Fianna Fail headquarters. I and a number of people were asked to invite local business people, which is what happens and it happens in every political party.
"There is nothing wrong with it, it is absolutely legal and it's within all the confines of fundraising law. I really take exception to the fact that Sinn Fein are the ones attacking me for fundraising.
"I was asked to invite local business people, which I did. The protocol in these events is you invite people and you tell them they can make a donation up to the maximum level of €5,000," he said on LMFM.