Casey claims FF members closing ranks for Gallagher
Presidential hopeful Peter Casey has claimed Fianna Fáil councillors are "closing ranks" around Seán Gallagher, making it difficult for other candidates to get on the ballot paper.
Businessman and former 'Dragons' Den' star Mr Casey said he remained confident he would get the support of four local authorities to win a nomination to challenge President Michael D Higgins in the upcoming election.
Mr Gallagher, an Independent candidate and another former Dragon, already has the required local authority support to get on the ballot paper. He secured it with the backing of some Fianna Fáil councillors. Party leader Micheál Martin has rejected as "ridiculous" any suggestion that Mr Gallagher is a proxy candidate for Fianna Fáil.
But last night Mr Casey told the Irish Independent that it appeared to him that the party's councillors were "closing ranks around Seán Gallagher".
"It makes it more difficult to get the councils over the line but I'm very confident that we will get there," he added.
He said it was "unfortunate" that Fianna Fáil didn't put up its own candidate and he believes the party's councillors are supporting Mr Gallagher in the absence of their own candidate. He encouraged councillors in local authorities that haven't backed a candidate to do so.
But Mr Casey confirmed that he was also seeking the support of 20 Oireachtas members as an alternative way of getting into the race as it "makes sense" to try both routes. Mr Casey said he had been in touch with Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who believes he has 20 members willing to facilitate a candidate.
Mr Casey, who founded US recruitment firm Claddagh Resources, was among a number of hopefuls who appeared before Sligo County Council to seek its backing yesterday. It will consider motions in support of candidates on a later date. Mr Casey pointed to his global business experience, and the affect he could have as president on trade missions, as attributes that set him apart from other hopefuls.
Mr Gallagher also addressed the meeting, though he made it clear to councillors he was not seeking additional local authority endorsements.
Another hopeful, artist Kevin Sharkey, raised questions about Mr Gallagher's presence despite the businessman already being on the ballot paper. RTÉ reported Mr Sharkey said it "starts to stink a bit", while adding "that's politics".
Mr Gallagher's spokesman pointed to the candidate's remarks in Sligo and other councils in response to the comments from Mr Casey and Mr Sharkey. Mr Gallagher told councillors he wanted other councils to consider nominating more candidates "to facilitate the widest choice for the electorate".