Presidential hopefuls in war of words over 'ageist' comments
Published 08/08/2011 | 05:00
A WAR of words erupted in the presidential contest last night as veteran broadcaster Gay Byrne warned Independent candidate Sean Gallagher about making ageist comments.
Mr Gallagher denied saying Byrne (77) was too old to be President -- but said the job required energy and drive.
The 'Dragons' Den' star trails Labour's Michael D Higgins and Gay Byrne -- both in their 70s -- in the latest poll and he said the next person in the Aras should have a "modern outlook" and "be of our time".
"Mary Robinson when she became President, and Mary McAleese were both 48 -- and at 49 I was making the point that it does require huge energy and drive to travel the country to serve the people at home," Mr Gallagher said on 'Sam Smyth on Sunday' on Today FM.
"The other point people are making to me about the next presidency is that it is going to be a huge role representing Ireland's international reputation and that the face of Ireland and the voice of Ireland should be of our time and should represent, yes, core values of community but also a modern outlook."
When asked if Byrne was too old for the job, Mr Gallagher said: "I never mentioned Gay, the point I was making was a general point about politicians.
"I'm sure that Gay is in good shape but the general point I was making is it is a job that requires huge energy and you've got to have that vision and drive."
He said it shouldn't go back to days when he said the presidency was a "retirement home" for politicians.
Byrne, still being coy about whether he will actually run, warned Mr Gallagher against making ageist comments.
"I think that would be a very foolish comment for him to make because I think he'd be accused of being ageist," Byrne said.
A telephone poll carried out after Byrne's possible entry into the race emerged over the weekend put the former 'Late Late Show' host on 34pc, Mr Higgins on 24pc, Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell on 15pc, with Mr Gallagher on 10pc.
It is also believed that former minister Mary Hanafin is interested in running as a Fianna Fail candidate, although she did not return calls last night.
Meanwhile, Mr Mitchell's spokesman defended the Dublin MEP writing clemency letters for people sentenced to death. He said this was based on his opposition to the death penalty and not out of sympathy for the people who committed terrible crimes.
"He abhors the crimes these people committed as much as he abhors the death penalty," the spokesman said. "His record on human rights speaks for itself."
Mr Mitchell personally handed a letter in to the US embassy in 1998 protesting at the execution of Joe Truesdale Jr, who was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder of an 18-year-old girl.
He also wrote appealing for clemency for Paul Jennings Hill, who was convicted of the murder of two people outside an abortion clinic in 1994.
The spokesman said that while Mr Mitchell opposed abortion, the appeal was entirely based on his opposition to the death penalty.
He also objected to the Nigerian ambassador in 2002 over the stoning to death of a woman under sharia law.
Why gaybo should never be voted into aras