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Saturday 20 January 2018

Gallagher accuses opponents of negative campaigning

Ed Carty

LEADING presidential candidate Sean Gallagher has accused opponents of negative campaigning.

"The big challenge now is for me as an independent I don't have the party machine to get the voters so I'm relying on the people in the country to ... actually make sure they come out and vote on Thursday," he said ahead of the Google/Newstalk debate which is being streamed online on YouTube.

He hit out at the continuing question marks over his ties to Fianna Fail.

"This is part of the negative campaign that has continued. I've said all along this is a presidential election. I'm going to act presidential before the election, not just after it," he said.

"I call on all candidates to continue in the next couple of days to lift the lid on this debate and make it above negative campaigning."

Mr Gallagher holds a commanding lead over his rivals for the Aras as the campaign enters the last few days.

Several polls have put the former Fianna Fail man well in front, with Labour's Michael D Higgins banking on across-the-board transfers to run close.

The seven candidates are today debating on the Google/Newstalk midday broadcast before RTE's Frontline hosts the last television debate.

The latest opinion poll, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI survey, gives Mr Gallagher 40pc of the vote - twice the support he had three weeks ago.

Mr Higgins, who is on 25pc in the latest poll, will require a huge swing this week to go close on the first count.

All of the other candidates have lost support since the last poll. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has cemented third place while support for Senator David Norris and Gay Mitchell of Fine Gael has continued to fall.

Mary Davis has dropped into joint last place with Dana Rosemary Scallon.

Voters go to the polls on Thursday with the final four days of tough campaigning expected to ratchet up attacks on Mr Gallagher's past links to Fianna Fail and business background.

And with Mr Higgins about 15pc behind Mr Gallagher in the polls, his party leader Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has demanded the independent open up about his ties to Fianna Fail.

"I think the onus is on him to respond to that commentary - we have more of it again today in relation to his fundraising activities for Fianna Fail. These are issues that he needs to address," Mr Gilmore told Newstalk radio.

"I don't think that it's adequate that he simply dismisses it and passes it off because these are the kind of things that continue to be part of the story after the election."

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