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Friday 20 April 2018

'Deserter of Destiny' gets down to business of positivity

Sean Gallagher tries some of four-year-old Ava Kiernan's soup at The Bakery in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, while
canvassing views on the future of the presidency
Sean Gallagher tries some of four-year-old Ava Kiernan's soup at The Bakery in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, while canvassing views on the future of the presidency

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

"HOW'S the hard workin' men?" used to be Bertie Ahern's canvass greeting of choice.

Independent presidential candidate Sean Gallagher has his own slogan -- one that sits nicely with his image as an up-and-at-'em businessman.

It's usually: "How's business going?" or a slight variation thereof, and he used it again and again in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, yesterday.

The 'Dragon's Den' star has an easy style of campaigning -- an appealing mix of homely folksiness and a quick, sharp way of geeing people up, just like a GAA manager giving you a schkelp across the backside as you run on to the pitch before a match.

"Keep the positivity going," he said, leaving The Bakery cafe.

"He's a very positive young man, that's great to see," he said after talking to Aaron Connor, whose parents run the local Spar.

While he's full of energy, shaking as many hands as he can, he also takes the time to talk, unlike the in-and-out style perfected by Bertie.

After all, the 49-year-old Cavanman is on a "listening tour", as he takes in what people want from the next President.

Garvin McGinley, owner of the Newbury Hotel, told him the office should focus on job creation. But how can this be done, since the President has limited powers and can't go anywhere or say anything without the say-so of the Government?


Mr Gallagher said he didn't accept that argument.

"When Mary McAleese was putting herself before the people, she talked about bridge-building and nowhere does it say in the Constitution that the President has a role in establishing peace on the island, but that's what she did," he said.

She was also quite successful in shaking off her FF label, and Mr Gallagher would like to do the same to his past with the Soldiers of Destiny.

He acknowledged he was an active member for many years, but said he became a Deserter of Destiny when FF moved away from its grassroots.

Even some of his campaign staff are hyper-sensitive to any FF links. One, when asked if she had any previous political experience, said she had campaigned for pro-Europe groups.

Anything else?

"Oh well, I used to work in the Seanad."

For who?

"Em, for Marc. . . Marc MacSharry." That would be Senator Marc MacSharry, unsuccessful FF general election candidate in Sligo and son of former Finance Minister Ray MacSharry.

It's okay, people have been known to work for Fianna Fail -- even Fionnuala Kenny, the Taoiseach's wife, who was a press officer for Charlie Haughey.

Despite Mr Gallagher's FF past, his way of talking to people, grounded in the rural everyday, allowed him to connect easily, like when he spoke at the Open Door project, a drop-in centre for people with addiction problems and to others from suicide bereavement support group Midlands Living Links.

Numerous people mentioned his youth work with organisations like Foroige, and said they'd vote for him as a result.

But what of Gay Byrne warning him about making ageist comments?

He insisted that he wasn't targeting septuagenarian rivals like Gay and Michael D Higgins when he said the job required "energy and drive" -- before adding that "it's not insignificant" that Marys McAleese and Robinson were both 48 when they took office.

Nothing to do with age at all, then.

Irish Independent

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