Gallagher defends job losses at his firm and rules out Higgins debate
INDEPENDENT candidate Sean Gallagher was forced to defend his job creation record yesterday.
It came in the wake of 30 job losses over the past four years in Smarthomes -- the company which established his reputation as an entrepreneur.
Mr Gallagher co-founded the company in 2002 to install TV, internet and phone connections in new houses but its workforce has dropped from 50 during the construction boom to 20 now.
Yesterday, he defended his record at the company by saying that survival was "the new success" in the current economic climate.
"I understand that pain, I've been through it. Thankfully Smarthomes is re-inventing itself and has a very bright future," he said.
Mr Gallagher stepped down as a Smarthomes director last year but is still a shareholder. A company spokesman said it planned to employ five extra staff by the end of the year.
It came as Mr Gallagher turned down a challenge from presidential rival Michael D Higgins for a two-way debate. He said such a format would not be very "inclusive," given that there were seven candidates in the race.
Mr Higgins did not call yesterday for a transfer pact between Labour and Fine Gael to help him catch up to Mr Gallagher -- but said he expected people knew which way to give their transfers.
All of the presidential candidates -- with the exception of the missing Dana Rosemary Scallon -- took part yesterday in an Inclusion Ireland forum on how to stop people with intellectual disabilities being treated like "second class citizens".
At the Mansion House in Dublin, Mr Gallagher actually trumped Mr Higgins in the debate with his by now familiar story about being the "living embodiment" of what a person with disability can achieve. His simple account of being practically blind until he was four and his progress in life was much easier to grasp. But Mr Higgins had more substance in his speech with a call to ratify the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities.
All the candidates agreed the president could not prevent the Government from cutting services for people with disabilities in the Budget.
But they said the new president could highlight the lack of inspections of private and voluntary centres for people with disabilities by carrying out official visits there.
And the candidates also revealed their own personal connections to the area of disability -- Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell has an elder sister and a niece who are benefiting from intellectual and physical disability services.
Martin McGuinness said his wife's sister had been institutionalised all her life. And Independent candidate Mary Davis talked about how she had worked in the area of disability for 30 years.