Sunday 21 October 2018

I have only met Seán FitzPatrick once, says Duffy in council pitch

Presidential candidate Gavin Duffy addressing the Waterford city council. Photo: Patrick Browne
Presidential candidate Gavin Duffy addressing the Waterford city council. Photo: Patrick Browne
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Presidential hopeful Gavin Duffy acknowledged he met former Anglo chief Seán FitzPatrick at a time when he was "big news" during the banking crisis - but said it was their only meeting.

"I got a phone call, [to say] 'would I go meet Seán FitzPatrick?' so I did," said Mr Duffy. The meeting was the first time he had met the banker.

"Now this is a client situation so I have to be careful what I say, but let's say if there was someone in the media spotlight with your good selves [the media] chasing them, I would be advising them: will you face up to the media. Because he was very big news at the time and he had no interest in that," he said.

"Therefore I don't know why he would have been talking to someone like me and we never ever met again. That was the first and last time I ever met Seán FitzPatrick."

Mr Duffy was being questioned about his consultancy work at a meeting of Waterford City and County Council, where he made his first pitch to secure the support of four local authorities for a nomination.

He also confirmed he had provided consultancy to four Taoisigh from various parties but had not done so since 2011.

Presidential candidate Joan Freeman addressing the Waterford city council. Photo: Patrick Browne
Presidential candidate Joan Freeman addressing the Waterford city council. Photo: Patrick Browne

The former 'Dragons' Den' entrepreneur defended his status as an Independent candidate after being questioned about his chairing of the Fine Gael leadership hustings between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney.

He said he was chosen because of his independence, and was "vetted up and down".

Mr Duffy was speaking at a special meeting of the council alongside Independent Senator Joan Freeman, who he described as a "very worthy candidate". Patrick Feeney, an independent candidate from Galway, also told councillors he wanted to "challenge the status quo in Irish politics".

Ms Freeman faced difficult questions, including her family's ties to the Iona Institute. Ms Freeman's niece is Maria Steen, a strong pro-life advocate during the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

The Pieta House founder said she voted No, "not for religious reasons" but because she had worked all of her adult life to "preserve life". Her vote was personal and she would be happy to carry the voice of the people and sign legislation if elected.

She said she had never been a member of the Iona Institute and her daughter had been active in the Yes campaign.

Candidates were also quizzed how they plan to finance a presidential campaign, which is estimated to cost up to €500,000.

Mr Duffy said he had raised a mortgage to meet the initial costs, while Ms Freeman said she had €10,000 in savings in the Credit Union and would not be in a position to remortgage her house, adding she was still making repayments on her home. Ms Freeman said she wanted to create a Republic of wellbeing, initiative and justice.

She pledged to be outspoken about injustice in society, and referred to the ongoing CervicalCheck scandal. If elected she will set up a Citizen's Assembly on national wellbeing within six months and a civic initiative focused on volunteerism.

Meanwhile, Mr Duffy said his focus would be on representing Ireland well abroad in the hope of encouraging investment. He said he would shine a spotlight on youth unemployment and proposed the idea of a presidential 'youth corps' which would allow young people to raise money to do charity work abroad.

Irish Independent

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